The New York Rangers had an opportunity to lock up their playoff spot tonight with a win, but unfortunately, that will have to wait until at least Saturday. The Rangers were handed a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes this evening, after they allowed two goals during the third period. After a horrific start to the game, the Rangers were able to rebound during the second period, but they completely fell apart during the final 20 minutes.
Once again, the penalty kill was unable to lock it down late in the game, and that allowed the Hurricanes to snatch two points right away from the Rangers. The slow start to this game wound up costing the Rangers a goal against, after they were out-shot to the tune of 13-4. As a result, Patrick Brown was able to catch a fortunate bounce off of the end boards, and chipped home the first goal of his NHL career.
As bad as the Rangers were to start the game, they were thanking their lucky stars that it was only a 1-0 game after the first period. The entire team knew they weren't nearly good enough during the opening 20 minutes, and that completely lit a fire under them coming out for the second period. It was like night and day, with the Rangers turning the tables on the Hurricanes and returning the favor with a dominant performance of their own.
That opened up the scoring for the Rangers, and they were able able to take a 2-1 lead just 5:03 into the middle period. Mats Zuccarello got it all started by finishing off a beautiful feed from Derek Stepan, and rifling a quick shot over Cam Ward's shoulder. A few minutes after that, Rick Nash took Brett Pesce to the outside and absolutely bulled his way to the net. Pesce was unable to handle the strength of Nash, and Nash was able to shovel a quick shot just under the crossbar.
A little over three minutes past the halfway mark, the Hurricanes were able to pull back even with a goal coming from Justin Faulk. Henrik Lundqvist never saw the shot as it sailed in from the blue line, and it beat him over the glove to make it a 2-2 game. With about three minutes remaining in the second period, the Rangers went to work on their third power play of the game, and finally broke through.
Once again, it was Derek Stepan setting up a beautiful set piece by shooting the puck down ice and leading Chris Kreider into the zone. Kreider was able to catch the puck in stride and rifled a quick shot over the glove of Cam Ward to make it a 3-2 game. The Rangers were able to close out the second period with a strong effort, and they were 20 minutes away from booking their trip to the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes had other ideas and rattled off two straight goals during the third period to take a 4-3 lead. Jeff Skinner evened the game up once again at the 4:22 mark after he deflected the puck just off to the side of the net. Lundqvist was unable to react to the change in the direction, and the Hurricanes came swarming back into the game.
Things went from bad to worse a short time later, as J.T. Miller was whistled down for high sticking and sent the Hurricanes to the power play. As expected, the Hurricanes were able to break through and Victor Rask gave the Hurricanes their second lead of the evening. The Rangers were unable to get much going throughout the remainder of the game, and when they did, Cam Ward was able to shut them down.
With the loss, the Rangers now drop down to third place in the Metropolitan Division as the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up two points over the Nashville Predators. In addition, the New York Islanders are now within striking distance and they still have an extra game in hand. The Rangers will have another opportunity at clinching their playoff spot on Saturday as they meet up with the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.