One night after Rick Nash was a dominant force and the Rangers played a solid and complete two-way game in defeating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1, the wheels completely fell off the cart as the Rangers were soundly beaten by the San Jose Sharks 9-2 Tuesday night at SAP Center, and perhaps more importantly Nash was forced out of the game due to injury.
There was no definitive word as to the injury suffered by Nash, but the Rangers did say that he was hurt after taking a first-period elbow to the head courtesy of Sharks' defenseman Brad Stuart. Nash remained in the game at the time, skating nine shifts for a total of 5:53 to close out the opening period, but when the second period began Nash was not on the bench and the team announced that their star power forward was done for the night.
Despite surrendering the first goal of the game, San Jose regrouped and dominated most of this game. 19 year-old rookie Tomas Hertl scored a pair of goals during the Sharks' four-goal outburst in the second period and then added another pair, including an incredible between the legs trick shot, to finish his four-goal masterpiece. Joe Pavelski and Jason Demers each added three assists, while Antti Niemi earned the win in goal.
The game got off to a fairly fast and furious start Tuesday with three goals in the first 7:56 of play, including a 5-on-3 power play goal for the Rangers and a shorthanded tally for the Sharks. Back-to-back penalties on San Jose's Stuart---at 2:32 for the elbow which injured Nash---and a bench minor called when the Sharks had too many men on the ice at 3:03 set the stage for the wild sequence of events that followed.
The Rangers cashed in on their first two-man advantage of the young season when Brad Richards fired a slap shot through a Ryan Callahan screen for his third goal in the past two nights, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 3:27 mark of the first period. With a chance to put the home team back on its heels by scoring on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play, the Rangers not only failed on the opportunity, they handed momentum right back to San Jose by surrendering a shorthanded goal. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored it after a slick feed from Pavelski at 4:23.
San Jose surged after tying the game and killing off the second minor penalty, and at 7:56 they took their first lead of the game when Dan Boyle's right-wing slap shot deflected off the Rangers' Marc Staal and past Henrik Lundqvist. A clean face off win in the Rangers' zone by Pavelski set up Boyle's first goal of the season.
Outshot 15-7 in the first period, the Rangers escaped trailing by just a single goal thanks in part to Lundqvist's clutch save on Logan Couture's shorthanded breakaway in the final minute, and Ryan McDonagh's alert lunge across the crease to stop an in-close shot after Lundqvist was pulled out of position with about three minutes remaining in the period.
While the first period was not a great one for the Rangers, it was much better than what the visitors could muster in the middle 20 minutes on Tuesday. San Jose dominated play, with Lundqvist under siege yet keeping the Rangers in the game until the dam finally burst. The Sharks scored four times in a span of four minutes 16 seconds to blow the game open, sending Lundqvist to the bench midway through the scoring barrage.
Matt Nieto scored his first National Hockey League goal at 8:16, following a series of big saves by Lundqvist just moments before. Then just 63 seconds later fellow rookie Hertl charged to the net untouched to put a centering pass behind Lundqvist, and, in turn, end the Rangers No. 1 netminder's night. Lundqvist faced 26 shots over 29:19, allowing four goals.
Martin Biron replaced a fuming Lundqvist and promptly was victimized by a bad bounce off the back boards which Couture swatted into the cage just 20 seconds after Biron had entered the game. Hertl then netted his second of the night, and fourth of the season, on a breakaway at 12:32.
The catastrophic second period ended with San Jose having taken 23 shots on goal and scoring four times in the middle 20 minutes of play.
Derek Dorsett got one back for the Rangers at 8:22 of the third period, scoring on a breakaway after a neat tip pass at center ice by Brian Boyle. However with Boyle in the penalty box the Sharks struck again 40 seconds later as Hertl netted his third goal of the night to secure his first NHL Hat Trick. Three minutes later, alone in front of the Rangers net, Hertl roofed a shot over Biron's shoulder after putting the puck and stick between his legs. Justin Braun scored a power play goal at 15:53 to make it 9-2.
Now 1-2-0 after three games of play, the Rangers have an off day Wednesday before returning to action Thursday night in Anaheim against the Ducks.