So much for that glimmer of hope.
In a game the Rangers had to have, they simply didn’t have it.
The Jets came out hopping and quickly built up a 5-0 shots advantage.
Slowly but surely the Blueshirts started to find their legs. And for a brief while it looked like the game would turn into a track meet.
But just as it looked like the Rangers would escape the first period with a scoreless tie, Patrik Laine struck.
Laine weaved, danced, swirled and swiveled around a Paul Stastny pick and fired the puck just inside the near post; beating Henrik Lundqvist for the 1-0 Jets lead.
Once again the Blueshirts had surrendered a goal in the final minute of a period. And it sapped the team of what little momentum it had.
The second period pretty much followed the script of the first.
The Rangers tried to find a spark on offense and almost found it in the form of Mats Zuccarello.
Zuccarello stick-handled behind Steve Mason’s net and went for a wraparound. His attempt clearly beat Mason, but the puck had other ideas.
The little rubber disc straddled the goal-line and without ever crossing the line, clanked off the far post and skidded away harmlessly.
Another Patrik Laine goal doubled the Jets lead as the Finnish-winger proved his wrist shot to be as deadly as an Alex Ovechkin slap-shot.
From there the game went to the third period. And once more Zuccarello found himself the carrier for the “bad luck gene.”
A wide open net had “goal” written all over it. But Zuccarello’s shot went right into Mason’s legs.
With Lundqvist pulled for the extra skater, Laine completed his hat-trick with an empty-net goal; giving the Jets their 3-0 shutout victory.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
HIS MAJESTY: Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 31 of 33 shots sent his way and has now stopped 131 of 139 shots over his last three starts. The only Jets’ player to beat Lundqvist was Laine, who turned the trick twice. After the game, Lundqvist said, “When you leave one of the best shooters with no pressure, he’s going to pick you apart a little bit.”
CENTURY MARK: Sophomore-winger, Pavel Buchnevich appeared in his 100th career NHL game. And though he certainly would have prefered to reach the milestone in a win, he was just happy to have played. After all, Buchnevich — along with the rest of his teammates — took what is known in baseball as “the collar.”
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Mats Zuccarello twice came within millimeters of scoring a goal. But lady luck was not on his side as Mats had one puck straddle the goal-line before hitting the post. And another was misfired into the goalie rather than the net. “I should have scored on those,” lamented Zuccarello after the game. “If I score on those plays we have a game.”
The Rangers face Steven Stamkos and the Lightning Thursday (March 8) at Amalie Arena. Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Networks.
If the Rangers were going to find their way to the postseason, they had to keep their winning-streak intact.
That they didn’t is just another let down in a season full of let downs.