The New York Rangers have become the NHL’s version of the NFL’s New York Jets.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But it’s true.
Last season, the Jets were supposed to be one of the two worst teams in the NFL. Instead, they contended for a playoff spot early on and folded late.
In doing so, the Jets were too good for a premium draft pick yet not good enough to make the playoffs.
This season, the Rangers were in playoff contention for most of the first-half. But by early February, they were clear sellers. As such, the Blueshirts committed to selling off a vast majority of their veteran assets.
Surprise of surprise, the Rangers then went on a three-game win-streak.
After that, the Blueshirts lost two straight; falling backwards in the standings but moving up in the draft order.
Then came their game against the Panthers.
A regulation loss was the ideal pregame outcome; as it would allow them to continue to move into premium draft position.
Too bad nobody told them that.
The Rangers came out firing; building a 7-1 shots advantage just minutes into the game.
But the Panthers weren’t willing to lay down for long.
A last minute goal from Jonathan Huberdeau — on the power-play — gave Florida the 1-0 lead.
The Blueshirts started the second period looking to even the score, but the Panthers wrestled control of the game away from the visitors.
8:13 into the middle period, Frank Vatrano scored his first goal as a Panther; upping Florida’s lead to 2-0.
But five minutes later, Mats Zuccarello redirected a Neal Pionk shot past Roberto Luongo; cutting the Panthers’ lead to 2-1.
The Rangers continued to build on that momentum and 17 seconds into the third period, Mika Zibanejad scored to tie the game.
However, 45 seconds later, Jamie McGinn restored Florida’s lead, when he cleaned up a rebound in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
Then, six minutes later, Kevin Hayes ripped a shot over Luongo; tying the game at three.
An exciting, fast-paced overtime saw the Rangers come close to winning, but ultimately the game was decided in the shootout.
Mats Zuccarello did what he does best; scoring a goal to open the shootout. But Luongo shut the Blueshirts down from there.
On the other side of things, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck scored against Lundqvist; giving Florida their 4-3 win.
As for the Rangers, the “loser’s point” moves them further away from premium draft position; falling behind Chicago in the race for the top-pick.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
PAPA JOHN’S: For the fifth time in six games, the Blueshirts scored three or more goals. Eat up!
SPOONMAN: Ryan Spooner just doesn’t know how to be quiet. A two-assist night for Spooner upped his Rangers totals to 12 points in seven games; five of which have been multi-point contests.
800: Henrik Lundqvist became the ninth player — first goalie — in Blueshirts’ history to appear in 800 career games. As for the game, Lundqvist saved 32 of 35 shots sent his way through 65 minutes. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as Luongo won the battle of old-timers.
CAREER-FIRST: For the first time in his NHL career, Kevin Hayes has recorded 20 goals in a season.
The Rangers face Jordan Staal and the Hurricanes Monday (March 12) at MSG. Game time: 7 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Networks.
More than anything else, this game exemplified the Rangers’ pride and their refusal to just roll over and play dead for the rest of the season.