Henrik Lundqvist had one last shot to keep his NHL-record streak alive and win 20 games for the 14th consecutive season. But after the Rangers lost to the last-in-the-league Ottawa Senators, 4-1, Wednesday at the Garden, that chance appears to be gone.
The Rangers have just two games left, and Lundqvist is stuck on 18 wins (18-23-10) for the season, and 449 for his career, after his sixth straight loss. Rangers coach David Quinn said Alexandar Georgiev will start Friday’s home finale at the Garden against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the starter for Saturday has not been determined.
But the math is simple: Unless Lundqvist for some reason comes off the bench and gets a win in relief in Friday’s game, then there’s no way he can get to 20 wins this season.
“I was hoping we could get him to 20 (wins),’’ Quinn said of Lundqvist. “I feel bad for him, because we certainly didn’t give him a chance tonight.’’
By all accounts, the Rangers (31-36-13, 75 points) were a no-show in their second-to-last home game of the season against the Senators, who improved to 29-45-6 (64 points).
“A lot of us probably looked at the team we were playing and expected it, again, to be an easy game,’’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “And maybe one that if we fell down 1-0 or 2-0, we felt like we could always grab it back.’’
But they couldn’t. They fell behind 1-0 on Bobby Ryan’s power-play goal at 12:14 of the first period, and then, after Ottawa’s Cody Ceci was sent off for tripping 33 seconds later, the Rangers allowed a shorthanded goal to Zack Smith to fall behind 2-0. Brady Tkachuk’s 5-on-3 power-play goal made it 3-0 at 3:51 of the second before Lias Andersson scored the Rangers’ only goal of the game, a shorthanded effort to make it 3-1. Brian Gibbons scored for Ottawa with 5:02 left in the third to remove any doubt about the result.
“We’re down the last week of the season and it would have been nice to get a win as a group, but also, personally (for me), in front of our fans,’’ Lundqvist said. “It’s just disappointing. Because it comes down to a couple plays where, if our effort is a little higher, I think there’s no goals (allowed). No offense to Ottawa, but they’re not a really strong team. We should be able to be in this one a little bit better.’’
Lundqvist, who has praised Georgiev for his play this season, has said he understands why he isn’t playing three-quarters of the games, as he’s been used to. Georgiev has been better than him of late.
“I think, throughout people’s careers, they have to adapt and make adjustments to their games,’’ Quinn said at the morning skate Wednesday. “And he’s no different than a defenseman or a forward. Some forwards are put in top-six roles throughout their career, and all of a sudden, they’re on the third or fourth line and they have to adapt. And then maybe they get a chance to get back on the top two lines. Same thing with a defenseman. That (goalie) position’s no different.’’
Notes & quotes: Filip Chytil sat out the game with an upper-body injury after taking a check at the end of the Devils game. Quinn said Chytil was “OK, but not good enough to play,’’ but he listed him as “day-to-day’’ and didn’t rule out the possibility the 19-year-old could play this weekend… Forward Pavel Buchnevich, who sat out Monday’s game after an accidental hit near the end of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia returned to the lineup… Mika Zibanejad was named the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award and presented with the trophy before the game… D John Gilmour returned to the lineup, replacing Freddie Claesson.