The Rangers did not play like a playoff team Thursday and so, by the end of the night, they were not a playoff team.
The Blueshirts came out flat in the 1st period in Raleigh, had an impressive 2nd period to take the lead, but failed to hold that lead when it counted. The Hurricanes rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Rangers 4-3, preventing the Rangers from clinching a spot in the playoffs. Victor Rask‘s power play goal midway through the 3rd period was the difference.
Coming into the game, the Rangers were 27-1-2 when leading after two periods this season.
Not only did the Rangers fail to clinch a playoff spot, but the loss, coupled with Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win over Nashville, dropped the Rangers to 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Penguins.
Carolina got on the board first. Patrick Brown scored his first career NHL goal at 11:05 of the 1st period, taking a Jeff Skinner shot that ricocheted off the corner boards and beating Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0. The Hurricanes dominated play in the period, outshooting the Rangers 13-4.
In the 2nd, the Blueshirts came alive. Mats Zuccarello tied the score 1:36 into the period, taking a pass from Derek Stepan and beating Cam Ward to make it it 1-1. It was his 25th goal of the season and the 200th point of Zuccarello’s NHL career.
Minutes later, Rick Nash scored a Rick Nash-like goal to make it 2-1 Rangers. He took a pass from J.T. Miller, fought off defender Brett Pesce, and bulldozed his way toward the net and scored at 5:03.
Justin Faulk tied the game at 13:27, scoring his 16th of the season to make it 2-2, but Chris Kreider gave the Rangers the lead again at 17:18 with a power play goal. Similar to the Brown goal, a long Stepan pass took an odd carom off the boards. Kreider beat the Pesce to the puck and scored to make it 3-2. It was Kreider’s 19th of the season.
Early in the 3rd period, Skinner tied the game, 3-3, deflecting a long Ryan Murphy shot in for a goal at 4:22, setting the stage for Rask’s heroics.
The Rangers [now 43-25-9, 85 pts] have only five regular season games to go. They host the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at The Garden.