The New York Rangers picked a bad time to play a bad game.
This time of year, even in the midst of five straight wins and seven victories in eight games, the Rangers’ hold on a playoff spot is still tenuous. But despite the poor, low-energy showing, New York salvaged a point and managed to creep closer to the team directly in front of them.
Erik Karlsson scored the lone goal of the shootout in the fifth round and the also-ran Ottawa Senators snapped the Rangers’ longest winning streak of the season with a 2-1 victory Thursday night.
”I didn’t see it coming,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. ”Surprised? Yeah. We don’t play too many bad games. Tonight was one of them.”
Craig Anderson and Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist both made 29 saves through overtime and both denied the first four shooters in the tiebreaker. Anderson got some help in the fifth round when Ryan Callahan got off a weak shot because his stick broke on the attempt.
Karlsson then solved Lundqvist, a fellow Swede, to win it.
”We’re from the same country, but you don’t really think about that too much,” Karlsson said. ”I wanted to shoot low glove. I just made a little move and there it was.”
The game mattered much more to the Rangers, the seventh-place team in the Eastern Conference. New York closed within two points of sixth-place Montreal, which lost 7-0 at Boston, with seven games left.
”I don’t want to think about missing a point or winning a point,” Lundqvist said. ”We just have to move on. Hopefully it will be more than enough in the end.”
The Rangers have a four-point cushion over Buffalo and a seven-point edge on Carolina, the team just below the postseason cutoff. Both pursuers have played two fewer games.
After scoring only two goals in two games, the Rangers will look to regroup Saturday when they visit Northeast Division-leading Boston.
”This team will respond,” Tortorella said. ”We take the point, stuff it in your back pocket, and move by this and get ready for a team that just spanked Montreal.”
Ryan Shannon had given Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the second, but Brandon Prust tied it early in the third.
The Senators are last in the East, but aren’t packing it in down the stretch.
”We’re not going to let up,” coach Cory Clouston said. ”We keep pushing the players. They responded very well. We did a good job of creating momentum right at the start and we did a good job of taking the crowd out. You see the energy they got from the crowd after they got that goal. We just wanted to keep it simple and get the momentum back on our side.”
A big scrum in the Senators’ crease with 1:40 left in regulation led to two minor penalties for each team that didn’t affect on-ice manpower. However, Ottawa forward Chris Neil was whistled for holding with 25.7 seconds left to give the Rangers a power play for much of the first 2 minutes of overtime.
Anderson kicked out Marc Staal’s shot just as Neil’s penalty expired, and a lead pass sent Neil in alone on Lundqvist, who poke-checked the rolling puck off his stick.
Prust got the Rangers even at 1 at 2:45 of the second period during a delayed-penalty call. Staal, who missed the previous two games because of an undisclosed injury, was cut down at center ice by a sliding tackle from defenseman Chris Phillips. Staal got a pass off while on the ice to Prust, who snapped in his 12th goal.
The Rangers showed more life throughout the third period and generated chances that Anderson handled. New York killed Ryan McDonagh’s holding penalty just past the midpoint of the period.
Shannon broke the scoreless deadlock with 4:39 left in the second when he converted off a circle-to-circle pass from Bobby Butler and beat Lundqvist from the right for his 10th goal this season and fourth in five games. It came just 21 seconds after Ottawa’s first power play ended.
That marked the first time the Rangers were short-handed in two games after they earned a penalty-free, 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. New York had only one power play in that game and was given only one through 40 minutes against Ottawa.
”It is tough to play 82 great games,” Rangers forward Vinny Prospal said. ”We just never got anything going right from the start.”
Notes: Shannon had scored only two goals in 34 games before this recent spurt. … Senators D Sergei Gonchar missed his second game because of a concussion. … Rangers D Matt Gilroy sat out to make room for Staal. LW Sean Avery was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game and for the fifth time in six.