PHILADELPHIA — For the Rangers on Thursday night, there was the formality of having to play the final game of the preseason against the Flyers. But in the minds of many of the Blueshirts, it already was past time to get on with things and start thinking about the regular season.
“Yes. It’s been a long, now, two weeks, and we kept a lot of guys around for good reason, and guys have made decisions difficult,’’ coach David Quinn, who has stressed pace and physical battles in his first camp as Rangers coach, said Wednesday. “But we’re getting down to the end and these last . . . games will put a lot more clarity in where we’re at and what we’re going to do moving forward.’’
Forward Mats Zuccarello, who played Wednesday but was not in the lineup Thursday, said he was anxious to get the preseason over with.
“I think everyone is,’’ he said. “No one wants to be in camp and just practice. You want to play games. You want to win games. You want to compete. It’s good to go through this and be in good shape come the season, but everyone’s just ready to go now.’’
Whereas Wednesday’s lineup for the 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders looked to be pretty close to the Rangers’ best lineup, Thursday’s featured a lot of youngsters and bubble players, including Long Island’s Rob O’Gara.
Three goals in the second period put the Rangers in control before the Flyers stormed back with two goals in the third. Kevin Hayes’ empty-net goal sealed the Rangers’ 4-2 victory.
O’Gara, facing long odds to make the team from the get-go with 18 defensemen invited to camp, said he thought he played well, but he was well aware of his situation. He said he did all he could to make the team.
“When I got the opportunity to play, I tried to embrace it — I put myself out there as best I could,’’ he said. “I can only control me. I had a good camp. Hopefully, it pays off.’’
Final cuts are expected Friday. One of the bigger — but less-talked-about — decisions Quinn and the Rangers braintrust need to make is who will be Henrik Lundqvist’s backup. Alexandar Georgiev, Marek Mazanec and Dustin Tokarski got looked at in the preseason, but with Lundqvist needing a certain amount of time to get himself ready for the season, that didn’t leave a ton of game time for the trio to split up.
Georgiev played 10 games with the Rangers last season after then-backup Ondrej Pavelec was injured, and he started and played the entire game Thursday night, allowing two goals on 28 shots. Entering Thursday’s game, Georgiev had played in two games and allowed five goals on 38 shots (.868 save percentage). Tokarski, signed as a free agent this summer, was the backup Thursday. He also played in two games before Thursday, allowing three goals on 22 shots (.863). Mazenec, who signed with Hartford at midseason last winter, came in off the bench in two games and allowed three goals in 20 shots (.850).
Notes & quotes: Vinni Lettieri, Brett Howden and Vladislav Namestnikov scored in the second period for the Rangers, who finished the preseason 3-2-1 . . . Before the game, the Rangers trimmed their roster by assigning forwards Gabriel Fontaine, Tim Gettinger and Ryan Gropp and defenseman John Gilmour to AHL Hartford and releasing forwards Bobby Butler and Drew Melanson from their tryouts and returning them to Hartford, with whom they are under contract.