The Rangers’ roller coaster season continues to roll onward and this time they’ve hit the downslope at the worst time possible. New York had a chance to control their playoff destiny with a win tonight over Atlanta. Instead, they were soundly beaten and shutout 3-0 thanks to Ondrej Pavelec’s 29 saves in his fourth shutout of the year.
Goals from Rob Schremp, Andrew Ladd, and Eric Boulton helped take the life out of New York and shift the ability to control their own fate to reach the postseason from New York to Carolina.
A win tonight would’ve put New York up by four points and into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, instead they’re just two points ahead of Carolina with just one more game left to play against New Jersey on Saturday night. Meanwhile the Hurricanes have two more games to play, tomorrow in Atlanta and at home against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
For the Rangers, the flashbacks to last season’s 82nd game will fire up in earnest as the Rangers playoff hopes rested on a final game against a divisional rival. Last year they lost to the Flyers in a shootout, this year they’ll wind their season up at home against New Jersey. How things have to shake out on Saturday will all depend on what Carolina does tomorrow night against the same Thrashers the Rangers lost to tonight.
After losing Ryan Callahan in their huge comeback victory over Boston on Monday night, seeing the Rangers come out flat and seemingly disinterested given the circumstances is disturbing. Callahan is an important part of the team, no doubt, but to see the entire team play tonight without any fire is baffling. If the Hurricanes lose tomorrow night, the Rangers catch a huge break but it doesn’t reduce the importance of their game on Saturday.
If the Rangers want to chase the ghosts away of last year’s missed opportunity for the playoffs, they’ll need some help from the team that beat them tonight and make sure to take care of their own business against the Devils. They haven’t made it easy all year in New York and they blew their shot at making it that way tonight.