The Rangers were too dejected by Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Senators to search for any silver lining. Despite rallying back from a 2-0 hole to tie the game in the first period, the Rangers saw the defeat as an opportunity lost.
Riding a season-high four-game win streak into the match, the Rangers aimed to keep a good thing going before embarking on a four-game road trip, but a lackluster third period cost them two points when Ottawa’s Jakob Silfverberg buried a rebound for the game-winner with 4:41 remaining in regulation.
Trailing the sixth place Sens by only two points heading into the match, the Rangers let a chance to pull even go to waste. The Blueshirts remain in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standing with one more game to go before they hit the mid-season mark on the schedule. The Rangers have not beaten the Senators in a regular-season game at Madison Square Garden since October 2009.
“You could just see it coming,” coach John Tortorella said of Silfverberg’s game-winner. “We had a chance early and we don’t [score]. They had a chance a little bit later and they do. I think the next goal of the game was going to win the game and we don’t get it done.”
With the game tied 2-2 earlier in the third period, center Derek Stepan had a Grade-A scoring opportunity in front of him, but 21-year-old Senators goaltender Robin Lehner denied him to preserve the tie. Lehner finished the game with 33 saves to record his first win of the season.
It was a play that could’ve very well been the difference in the game.
“He made a good save,” Stepan said. "He came across and had his blocker up. You know, I’m shooting myself for it, but it’s a good save and a great pass from [Marian Gaborik]. Just didn’t pop in.”
That changed the complexion of the game for the Rangers, who were on the tail end of a back-to-back following Thursday’s 2-1 overtime win against the Islanders.
Whereas the Rangers jumped on the Senators early in the final frame, they flattened out as the period wore on.
“I don’t know if we got tired or what,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 36 saves. “They kept coming harder the last ten minutes and we had a tough time getting pucks out. We put ourselves in a tough position because of that.”
For a team that prides itself on conditioning, the Rangers seemed to falter on that note Friday. That can’t be an excuse if the Rangers want to remain in the mix for a playoff spot down the stretch.
“We’re not going to use it as a crutch,” Nash said. ‘We’ve just got to dig down deeper, play better and get the win.”
Both Nash and Brad Richards tallied for the Rangers, although neither player seemed to take much comfort in their goals after the game. Nash scored his team-leading ninth goal in the first period to cut the lead in half (his first goal all season NOT scored in the third period) and Richards followed up later in the period to knot the game at 2.
In his first game back since sitting out the past two games while recovering from Sunday’s vicious hit from Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, Richards cashed in on a drop pass from Carl Hagelin and ripped a shot past Lehner from the left circle to snap a 15-game goal slump.
“I don’t want to talk about myself,” Richards said when asked about his game. “It’s tough.”