Well, Julien Gauthier’s renaissance didn’t last all that long, did it?
After the 23-year-old strung together three pretty good performances last week, and scored his first NHL goal against the Bruins on Feb. 10, Gauthier was back in street clothes for Thursday night’s clash in Philadelphia following a difficult night against the Devils on Tuesday.
Gauthier, rather than role players Colin Blackwell and Phil Di Giuseppe, sat in order to accommodate the return of Artemi Panarin, who had been sidelined the previous two games with an unidentified upper-body issue.
“I thought he was making good progress but I thought he had a real tough night the other night,” coach David Quinn said before the match. “We had other guys too, up front [who played poorly], but when you watch it, talked about it, I just thought he had a real tough night.”
Gauthier turned the puck over in the defensive zone and then appeared to be late in coverage on Nick Merkley’s third-period goal that boosted the Devils to a 4-2 lead in their eventual 5-2 victory. He had a dreadful 25 percent Corsi rating, on for six attempts for and 18 against.
K’Andre Miller was unable to go for a second straight game with an unidentified upper-body injury. That necessitated the return of Jack Johnson to fill the vacancy created by Jacob Trouba (broken thumb). Johnson had been sidelined for the previous eight games after sustaining a groin pull on Jan. 26 in Buffalo.
“[Miller] didn’t have a setback but we thought there was going to be some more progress between yesterday and today,” said Quinn, who Tuesday had stated he anticipated the rookie would return to action against the Flyers. “It just wasn’t enough to put him in the lineup.”
Johnson was set to play with Brendan Smith on his right. He had played three games with Tony DeAngelo as his partner and two with Adam Fox. So this was a new tandem for the Blueshirts.
The Flyers were playing their first game since Feb. 7 after having been shut down to deal with a COVID-19 spread within the club.
They had six regulars on the COVID-restricted list and out for this one: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Justin Braun, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton.
Alexandar Georgiev, 0-2-2 in his previous four starts and without a victory since shutting out the Islanders 5-0 in his first appearance of the year on Jan. 16, was in nets after Igor Shesterkin had started five of the previous six contests.
The Rangers entered the match 0-3-1 in their previous four games, in which they were outscored by an aggregate 11-4. They had the fifth-worst average goals per game despite having the second-highest average shots on goal per. They also had the fourth-worst shooting percentage in the NHL.
Their overall numbers are skewed because of the lack of productivity of the power play, which had accounted for just six goals through the season’s 14 games, but Quinn said there was more to it than that.
“It’s very simple, we’re just not around the net enough,” he said. “There really is no other answer for it and you don’t need to look any further than that.
“Sometimes in life there’s the simple answer that people don’t want to hear, they want to hear a long-winded answer, something that will pop your eyes open and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that.’ But at the end of the day, that’s really what this comes down to.”