The Rangers did not end the regular season as they had envisioned.
New York finished with a 4-1 loss to Washington, thus eliminating the Capitals as a potential first-round opponent, after falling behind in an early 3-0 hole in the first period. Alexander Ovechkin beat Henrik Lundqvist off the draw 32 seconds into play and the Capitals tallied again less than two minutes later on Mathieu Perrault’s deflection in front. The Rangers were trailing 4-0 in the second before Brian Boyle tallied the team’s lone goal of the night against 22-year-old Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
The Rangers’ effort wasn’t terrible – two of the Capitals first three goals were scored on deflections – but they won’t be charging into the playoffs as they’d like.
They’ll face the Ottawa Senators Thursday and hope to wipe their two latest losses from memory.
Coach John Tortorella sounded confident his team was up for the task.
“This team here, the New York Rangers, can beat any team in the league,” he said.
Tortorella and his charges spent little time dwelling on their season-ending defeat. Not more than a thought here or there about the Capitals’ “puck luck” or a pretty impressive 35-save performance from Holtby.
The Rangers seemed much more eager to talk about what’s to come.
“It’s a nice honor to have,” defenseman Dan Girardi said of the Presidents' Trophy, “but I think moving on from tonight we need to get ready for what’s ahead for us. There’s a big trophy at the end of the line. I think that really helps you play the right way and play hard. The season’s over now. Everyone realizes what we have ahead of us.”
Alternate captain Brad Richards indicated the Rangers may have already let their focus drift in that direction.
“We were looking forward to the playoffs maybe a little too much,” he said. “It’s what every player wants to play for. We’ve been mature enough all season to handle any of these things so we’ll wipe it clean. No matter what, it’s a whole different situation starting this week and we just can’t wait to get at it.”
They’ll get that opportunity Thursday against the Senators, who took an unexpected tumble to the 8th seed with wins from both Florida and Washington.
Before the game, Tortorella listed the four items on the team’s to-do list: the Eastern Conference title, Atlantic Division title, Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup. The Rangers already clinched the first two and while they may not ever check off the third, they’ll gladly settle for the fourth and final.
“I’m just glad the 82 games are done,” Tortorella said. “Now the real stuff starts.”