Why this Rangers' brutal loss is even worse than the others

The game unraveled, the Rangers unraveled and now it is fair to wonder whether this season will unravel on a team that just has not been able to gain any traction through the first seven weeks.

“I don’t know whether it’s arrogance or what, but we consistently refuse to do the things we know we need to do to win games,” Chris Kreider told The Post after the Rangers blew a 3-0 third-period lead and lost 4-3 to the Oilers at the Garden on Saturday afternoon. “We talk about it, we know what we need to do to close out games but we don’t do it.

“I don’t know why. But it’s costing us games. Every loss, the same story.”

A 2-0 second-period lead against Detroit at the Garden on Nov. 6 became a 3-2 overtime loss. A 3-1 third-period lead against the Islanders at the Garden two nights later became a 4-3 loss. Now this one.

Now this one that prompted a postgame meeting in which head coach Gerard Gallant let his displeasure be known before doing the same for the media.

“[Today] we were awful,” Gallant told the press. “It was embarrassing and unacceptable.”

The message was presumably the same to the team, which is flailing below the playoff cut line. By the way: Three of the four 2021 semifinalists failed to make the 2022 playoffs.

Chris Kreider wears a dejected expression as the Oilers celebrate after scoring the game-winning goal in the Rangers' 4-3 loss to the Oilers.
Chris Kreider wears a dejected expression as the Oilers celebrate after scoring the game-winning goal in the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Oilers.
Jason Szenes

“Guys are cognizant of the standings,” Kreider said. “We’re aware.”

Could have fooled us.

The first 40 minutes went off like a charm, the Blueshirts building a 3-0 edge on three goals scored at five-on-five while denying Edmonton’s dynamic Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl first-line connection so much as a sniff. The Oilers, 3-7 in their last 10 and coming off losses at the Devils and Islanders earlier in the week, had been shut out for five straight periods.

Two points were there for the taking, but the Rangers flushed them. They have lost two straight in regulation, the first at Anaheim on Wednesday to a terrible Ducks team that had won all year in 60 minutes. That is how you throw away a season.

There were a couple of bad penalties, the second of which, taken by Alexis Lafreniere below the Edmonton goal line, put the Oilers on a power play, off which Draisaitl buried one back-door for the winner at 17:58 after beating Kreider to the net.

“I should have slashed and broken his stick,” Kreider said. “Put that on me.”

But the unraveling started much earlier. The Blueshirts turned into minimalists. They became paid spectators. They didn’t put the puck in deep. They stopped pressuring the Oilers. They turned over the puck in the neutral zone. They opened the door.

“When we got the puck behind them, we got three [goals],” said Kreider, who got the 2-0 goal at 15:54 of the second by banking one in off netminder Jack Campbell from below the goal line. “When we stopped doing that, they got three. It’s pretty simple.

“We have got to learn from this.”

The Oilers were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Starting with Evan Bouchard’s goal at 4:40, one second after K’Andre Miller was released from the penalty box for an infraction as needless as Lafreniere’s, Edmonton scored three times on four shots within 5:41.

The goals, the first two by Bouchard and the third from Dylan Holloway from the left side, were all on first shots from some distance. Goals are being scored on Igor Shesterkin that he did not surrender last year. That goes a long way toward explaining why the Rangers are not able to overcome lapses the way they did last season.

The Rangers went with a four-line rotation for much of the contest and seemed in control, the Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Artemi Panarin forward unit and the Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox pair matched up primarily against McDavid and Draisaitl.

It did not help when Lindgren left the game for good at 6:56 of the third after absorbing the worst of a thundering collision with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but the unraveling had already begun.

“Really, late in the second period,” Kreider said. “And we talked about it.”

It is not yet December, but really, it’s late already for the Rangers. They have won 10 of 22 games (10-8-4). They have won four of 11 (4-4-3) at the Garden. Perhaps it is getting late for Gallant.

Because games like these — and that’s plural — can cause repercussions.

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