This one was excruciating.
In a game the Rangers believed they needed to win as they attempt to get back into the playoff chase, it looked as if they had accomplished their mission Monday night against the Kings.
The Rangers had gone ahead on a goal from the unlikeliest of sources, and all they needed to do was close out the last minute to secure two badly needed points.
But they couldn’t do it.
Adrian Kempe tied it with 59.6 seconds remaining and, after red-hot Mika Zibanejad hit the crossbar in the first few seconds of overtime, Kings forward Tyler Toffoli took off the other way and beat Henrik Lundqvist 25 seconds into the extra period to deal the Rangers a 4-3 loss.
“That last goal kind of sums it up, doesn’t it?’’ Lundqvist said when asked how frustrating this one was. “Hit the crossbar, they go down, [Toffoli] totally misses his shot and fools me, it goes five-hole and game over. We definitely played well enough to win this game.’’
“It [stinks],’’ Zibanejad said. “I mean, I don’t know, in overtime, anything can happen, but we’re up by one with a minute to go and we don’t do a good job coming back and they score. We lost a point right there, and it’s just disappointing.’’
The Rangers are 0-1-1 in the first two games of their five-game homestand and 1-2-1 in four games since the All-Star break.
That’s three games in four since the break that the Rangers felt they played well enough to win but didn’t.
They wasted a record-breaking performance by Zibanejad, who assisted on their first goal and scored the second to make it 10 consecutive Rangers goals he had either scored or assisted, a team record.
Zibanejad was named the NHL’s third star of the week Monday after scoring six points (three goals, three assists) in three games last week.
He got the secondary assist on Chris Kreider’s goal at 8:32 of the first period, which opened the scoring, and popped in the rebound of Mats Zuccarello’s shot for his 21st goal 32 seconds into the second period for a 2-1 lead.
The goal gave Zibanejad a career-high 52 points (in 52 games). He has eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last three games and 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in his last seven games.
Kings captain Anze Kopitar tied it at 2 with a backhander over Lundqvist’s catching glove at 5:04 of the third, but the Rangers went ahead on Adam McQuaid’s first goal of the season — and first as a Ranger — at 9:15.
That looked as if it would be the game-winner until Kempe (who scored the Kings’ first goal late in the first) got to a puck in front of the net and jammed it in to force overtime. Lundqvist took the blame for allowing that goal.
“I need to make a better read on the third one,’’ he said. “I thought we had it covered, and it kind of surprised me that he got that shot, and the pass, too, to be honest. It definitely hurts.’’
“Listen, you’ve got to play 60 minutes,’’ coach David Quinn said. “You can’t give an opportunity to a team like that that’s got some high-end guys that can take advantage of opportunities.
“We’ve had a tendency, at times, when we’re winning 2-1, to act like it’s 5-1. And there’s such a fine line between winning and losing at this level. And you’ve got to finish the job.’’
Mika Zibanejad at one point had assisted on or scored the Rangers’ last 10 goals:
Jan. 19, at Boston
1. Goal, 2nd period
2. PP goal, 3rd period
Jan. 31, at New Jersey
3. PP goal, 1st period
4. PP goal, 2nd period
5. Assist, Chris Kreider goal, 3rd period
6. Goal, 3rd period
Feb. 2, vs. Tampa Bay
7. Assist, Mats Zuccarello goal, 2nd period
8. Assist, Kevin Hayes, goal, 3rd period
Monday vs. Los Angeles
9. Assist, Kreider goal, 1st period
10. Goal, 2nd period
Totals: 6 goals, 4 assists