GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The sun came out Monday after a devastating last-minute loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night that badly damaged the Rangers in their attempt to make the playoffs.
Coach David Quinn’s message to his troops at practice Monday was to look ahead to the next game, Tuesday against the Islanders, and forget that crushing goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand with 26.5 seconds left in regulation that dealt the Rangers a 2-1 loss Sunday.
“We’ve moved on from last night,’’ Quinn said. “We’ve got a big game tomorrow night and we need to learn from what happened last night, but we need to move past it as quickly as possible.
“We’ve played good hockey in the last few weeks here, and we can’t let last night get in the way of tomorrow night,’’ Quinn said. “We can’t let the last minute of last night’s game cost us two hockey games.’’
And yet, Ryan Strome had to admit, the loss to Columbus was pretty damaging. The Blue Jackets (60 points in 50 games) and Carolina Hurricanes (59 points in 49 games) currently occupy the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots. The Rangers, who have two games in hand on Carolina and three in hand on Columbus, have 50 points, and they could have gotten closer.
The Rangers had won four of five before the loss, but, Strome said, “It feels like we’ve been winning and you kind of don’t really go anywhere.’’
Strome took responsibility for the bad line change that led to the winning goal. He vacated the middle of the ice when he headed to the bench. That allowed Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois to skate up the middle unchecked on a three-on-two break. Dubois passed to Bjorkstrand, who scored against goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
“I have to make a better read, I think,’’ Strome said of the play. “You know, that play probably happens a lot in a game and we don’t get burned. I didn’t look. I was tired, just trying to get off.’’
The loss puts more pressure on the Rangers to beat the Islanders — for the third time in a nine-day period — to go into the break feeling good. If they lose, it will be a long wait for the next game. Because of the NHL All-Star break, they don’t play again until Jan. 31.
“Guys are going to head off to wherever they’re going to go, and you’re going to have to think about this game for a long time,’’ said Strome, a former Islander. “We know they’re going to come with a really good effort. They definitely aren’t going to be happy with the result last two games [both of which were Rangers wins], so we know what it takes. It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere out there and we’ve got to be ready to go.’’
Notes & quotes: Alexandar Georgiev will start in goal. He started both games against the Islanders last week and owns a 4-1 career record in five appearances (four starts) against the Islanders, with a 1.40 goals-against average, one shutout and a .955 save percentage . . . Artemi Panarin, who left practice early on Saturday with what Quinn called “an upper-body thing,’’ did not practice Monday for what Quinn said were “maintenance’’ reasons.