SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Rangers will wrap up this three-game California trip against the Sharks on Tuesday night knowing that they still need to secure a playoff berth.
In order for the Rangers to clinch a postseason spot Monday night, three things had to happen: An Islanders loss in regulation along with losses of any fashion by Carolina and Tampa Bay. The first two happened; the Lightning won.
For the Blueshirts (46-26-4, 96 points), their fate really hasn’t left their hands, but missed opportunities to pick up points are haunting them as teams in the chase for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card refuse to go away.
On Sunday, for instance, the Rangers were tied at 3 at the second intermission but were steamrolled in the third as the Ducks won, 6-3.
“We had our fair share of chances, but we were giving up a fair share ourselves. When you play like that, you’re going to have nights like this,” Marc Staal said. “They go bang-bang and we don’t.”
The Sharks, tied for second in the Pacific Division, won’t be push overs, either. Coach Pete DeBoer’s team was leading the division before losing six straight in regulation.
If form holds after a loss, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will tweak some lines and defense pairs at Tuesday morning’s skate after Monday’s day off.
Henrik Lundqvist, who said he was rusty against the Ducks after missing eight games with a strained hip muscle, will start his second consecutive game.
“You don’t feel as comfortable as you did with the reads,” he said Sunday. “I felt pretty good to start the game and that second goal [Ryan Kesler’s high deflection] and the fifth goal [off Brady Skjei’s skate] were some tough bounces. I felt pretty good at times . . . There were definitely things I could do better.”
Said Vigneault: “I know Henrik, as everyone does. He’s going to get better.”
Vigneault has more issues on defense than on offense, although winger J.T. Miller looked lost Sunday and center Kevin Hayes was ineffective. Pavel Buchnevich had one shot attempt, which was blocked.
Vigneault wasn’t enamored of defenseman Dan Girardi’s return in the win over the Kings on Saturday, and he sat in favor of Kevin Klein on Sunday. “It’s not an easy situation, not a lot of practice time, so for the most part, I thought he [Klein] was all right,” Vigneault said.
It’s possible that Girardi will return and Vigneault will break up the Staal-Nick Holden duo. Ryan McDonagh appears to be playing hurt, but it’s hard to imagine that the captain will sit Tuesday night.
Notes & quotes: The NHL corrected its official scoring Monday, awarding Mika Zibanejad — who tipped McDonagh’s shot past Ducks goalie Jonathan Bernier in the first period on Sunday — his 12th goal. Zibanejad has four goals and five assists in his last 11 games . . . Vinni Lettieri, 22, a free-agent forward from the University of Minnesota, has agreed to an entry-level contract with the Rangers. He scored 19 goals in his senior year.