NEW YORK – “Failure is not an option.” Remember that quote from head coach Alain Vignaeult at the beginning of the season after watching the movie Apollo 13? It seems as if failure has been an option the last two games as the New York Rangers fell to the Buffalo Sabers 4-3.
For the second straight game the Rangers had an opportunity to clinch a playoff birth and for the second straight game they played an opponent who will not be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup. For the second straight game, poor execution and not enough effort cost them yet another two points.
Two first period goals nearly three minutes apart had the Madison Square Garden crowd stunned. A third straight goal 46 seconds into period two had that same crowd booing and watched Henrik Lundqvist skate to the bench to have Antti Raanta relieve him.
The Blueshirts were flat and their number one goaltender was chased from the game. This looked like the Rangers of about a month ago where defensive breakdowns cost them several contests. Keith Yandle became the object of the fans’ derision after he gift-wrapped a pass in front that was intercepted by Matt Moulson who connected for the deciding goal.
The Rangers did show life in the final 30 minutes of the game. They chipped away and brought the lead to within one on a sweet deflection by Derek Stepan at the 4:52 mark of period three. That was the closest the Rangers got however.
A 32-save effort from former Ranger Chad Johnson that included 16 shots in the third period secured the victory despite the relentless effort by the Rangers.
When asked on how the game went for his team Vigneault said, “The results were definitely not what we were looking for. As far as our readiness, I knew the guys were ready. I knew they wanted to go out and execute and perform well. We spent a lot of time in their end; [we] didn’t get enough good looks for the amount of time we spent in their zone. It wasn’t by lack of state of readiness and wanting to do the right things and play the right way on the ice. We got behind the eight ball.”
The Rangers did see some positives in the final 30 minutes. “We as a group just have to focus on finding a way to play our game because in the second and third period we played our game and we are a tough team to play against when we do that,” said Stepan.
The Rangers were playing good hockey, getting back to old form but these last two games have many questioning if they would even get out of the first round playing like this. Lundqvist who was pulled in period two was asked about going forward from two bad losses said, “Every time you lose you need to look at yourself, you need to look at the team – what we are doing well and what do we need to improve. I can just go to myself here and try to analyze it the right way and work harder tomorrow and try to prepare for the next one.”
“I’m not going to overthink it because it’s against teams that they’re not in the playoffs. There are no easy games in this league. We talked about it yesterday. Every team wants to win for different reasons at this time of year and everybody is going to work hard. It’s not going to come for free. It doesn’t matter who you are playing. It’s going to be a tough game every night and that’s what we have to expect in the next one as well.”
The next chance for the Rangers to clinch can come Monday night in Columbus. They let four points get away from them in their last two games. Those four points could determine whether the Rangers could be playing a possible game seven at home or away. If the playoffs started today they would be playing on the road. It’s time for that failure to get points to stop being an option otherwise the Rangers could be in danger of falling into a wild card spot or even worse out of the playoffs altogether with just four games to go.
J.T. Miller recorded a goal, registered three shots on goal, and posted a plus-one rating. Miller has established career-highs in goals (22) and points (43) in 2015-16.
Mats Zuccarello played in his 300th NHL game. Zuccarello is the first Norwegian-born player in NHL history to skate in at least 300 career games.
Nine different Blueshirts tallied a point in tonight’s contest.