In a lost season, it’s only fitting the Rangers closed out their home slate with a loss.
On Friday night, March 30, 2018, the Blueshirts hosted the Lightning in a battle of “Rangers North vs Rangers South.”
And unlike the American Civil War, the South won.
On the night Henrik Lundqvist was presented the annual Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, Ondrej Pavelec and the Blueshirts were defeated 7-3 by a number of their former teammates.
After a video tribute honoring J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers got off to a strong start.
And 14:59 into the first period, Brady Skjei cashed in on the Seventh Avenue Skater’s solid start.
Skjei sent a blast towards Louis Domingue, and Vladislav Namestnikov artfully screened Tampa’s goalie; giving New York the 1-0 lead.
But from there it was all Tampa.
As the horn sounded to end the first period, Steven Stamkos and Pavel Buchnevich got into an uncharacteristic fight.
With both players throwing haymakers, a slew of penalties were assessed; Stamkos getting 17 minutes and Buchnevich seven.
The second period began and the Rangers looked as if they forgot something in the locker room.
Goals by Cedric Paquette and Alex Killorn — just 1:18 apart — gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
And just like at the end of the first, the second period concluded with a melee. This time, Chris Kreider and Yanni Gourde were the focal points.
The game was still within reach at the start of the third, but not for long.
A J.T. Miller power-play goal made it 3-1 Lightning just 35 seconds into the period.
Miller’s goal was his second point of the game. And it opened the floodgates.
Within the next two minutes, Paquette and Brayden Point had scored; upping Tampa’s lead to 5-1.
Although there was over 17 minutes remaining in the game, the Rangers were done.
Garbage time goals from Filip Chytil — the first of his NHL career — and Kreider brought the Rangers within 5-3.
An empty-netter from Point and power-play tally from Girardi ended the scoring.
The Blueshirts’ 7-3 loss was the fitting end to a disappointing season at Madison Square Garden.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
ROOKIE FIRSTS: Filip Chytil became the latest Rangers rookie to score his first NHL goal. And even though it came with the Blueshirts down 5-1, it’s something he’ll always remember.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Blueshirts’ special teams were on the ice more often than not in the second period. Overall, New York went oh-for-four on the power-play and two-for-three on the penalty-kill. Had their power-play been more in sync, the final score may have been different.
AGGRESSIVE NATURE: For a team not accustomed to fighting, the Rangers surely had their fair share of scraps against the Lightning. And seeing Pavel Buchnevich throwing rights and lefts is about as rare as it comes.
The Rangers face Jordan Staal and the Hurricanes Saturday (March 31) at PNC Arena. Game time: 7 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG 2.
Physically the Rangers were ready. But mentally and emotionally, the team was MIA for most of the game.