Really? Is this how the Rangers could bow out, after all the good work they did in the regular season and in the first two games of the playoffs?
But here we are.
After the Devils’ 3-1 victory in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, their first-round playoff series is tied at 2-2.
If you’re scoring at home, the Rangers have two goals in two games against a 22-year-old who two seasons ago was toiling for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.
Credit Schmid but blame the Rangers for failing to make life difficult for him, too often settling for long shots that made for easy saves and not generating enough traffic in front of him.
It was all too much for Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, who lambasted his players for what he deemed a subpar effort, to put it mildly.
“We didn’t show up,” he said. “We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t compete hard enough. All we did is yap at the linesmen for getting thrown out of faceoffs.”
Gallant spared no one, calling out his top players for not giving the team enough, citing lazy play that helped the Devils score the go-ahead goal, lamenting a lack of desperation in the final few minutes.
Pretty much all of the above.
“Not good enough, not even close,” Gallant said.
Schmid played in 18 regular-season games for the Devils, then replaced Vitek Vanecek in goal after the Rangers’ back-to-back 5-1 victories in Games 1 and 2.
So Schmid is 2-0 at Madison Square Garden in his first two career playoff games, and the Rangers are on the ropes.
It was not as if he was a rock of stability. He looked awkward at times in how he handled and/or cleared the puck.
But he was plenty good enough against an opponent that for two games has failed to make his life sufficiently miserable.
“He’s been good,” Jacob Trouba said. “He makes the saves he can see. We’ve got to get more traffic, more tips, more rebound opportunities.”
Said Vincent Trocheck, who scored the Rangers’ goal, “He’s an NHL goaltender. He’s obviously good enough to be here and he’s playing well.
“I’d like to see our team get a few more Grade A opportunities, but he’s playing well.”
Mika Zibanejad added, “I think there are some opportunities. The pucks are just laying there. We have to be a little more maybe desperate in front of the net.”
The game began in the worst possible way for the Rangers — allowing an early goal, and to the Devil best equipped to wreck things for the home team.
Jonas Siegenthaler cleared a puck sitting in Schimd’s crease and happened to find Jack Hughes in the middle of the ice.
The Devils’ dynamic young star split defensemen Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, came in alone on Igor Shesterkin, maneuvered the puck around the goalie’s right pad and made it 1-0 only 2:50 into the game.
Hughes was all over the ice from that point forward and got the ultimate sign of respect from Garden fans: He was booed every time he touched the puck.
From there the Rangers looked disjointed at times and failed to convert on a pair of first-period power play chances. They are 0-for-8 in the past two games.
They finally broke through at 1:42 of the third period when Trocheck put home a rebound from the slot to tie it.
But at 8:22 of the third, Siegenthaler beat Shesterkin with a shot under the goalie’s arm that rang off the far post and in.
It would be blasphemy to say Schmid has outplayed Shesterkin, but facts are facts: Schmid allowed two goals in Games 3 and 4. Shesterkin allowed four.
No one is saying Schmid is a star — yet. Playoff history is full of flashes in the pan. And the Rangers did enough bad things on offense and the Devils enough good things on defense to make Game 4’s result a collective effort on both sides.
But Schmid is the goalie, and the Rangers’ scoring totals speak for themselves.
After the morning skate, Gallant called Schmid “a 22-year-old kid who played a great game the other night. Now, can he come back and do it again . . . We’ll see what happens.”