The still-young, still-developing, far-from-finished-building Rangers will take plenty of positives from Sunday’s road loss to the red-hot, East Division-leading Washington Capitals.
Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t take away any points, which would have been very helpful in their attempt to earn a playoff spot.
Down by four goals, the Rangers rallied in the final 13-plus minutes of the third period but ultimately fell short in a 5-4 loss to the Capitals in the finale of their three-game road trip.
The loss, the second in a 23-hour span for the Blueshirts, left them five points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins. The sixth-place Rangers have 22 games remaining and the Bruins have 25 left.
"I just didn’t think we were sharp during that second period,’’ said Rangers coach David Quinn, who returned to duty after missing six games because of COVID-19. "We had some power plays that we kind of didn’t get a lot from, and then I just thought our inability to shoot pucks and get pucks on net [hurt]. I just thought we were looking for the perfect play.’’
After a scoreless first period, the Capitals — who have won 10 of their last 11 games — took control with three goals in a span of 4:24 in the second, two from Tom Wilson and one from Alex Ovechkin (his 11th goal in the last 13 games and the 724th of his career).
"I think they just happened to get a bounce or two,’’ Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said of the Capitals’ second-period dominance. "That second goal deflects off a few sticks or bodies and in, and . . . it just wasn’t sharp. The puck seemed to be bouncing on us. But we responded well in the third and came up just short.’’
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal at 5:10 of the third period made it 4-0 before Colin Blackwell, on his 28th birthday, got the Rangers back into the game with goals at 6:42 and 9:41.
T.J. Oshie scored on a deflection to put Washington up 5-2 at 11:46, but Alexis Lafreniere scored his first goal in 13 games 32 seconds later to make it 5-3.
After Wilson took a penalty, Chris Kreider deflected in a pass from Ryan Strome on the power play to pull the Rangers within 5-4 with 3:52 left.
Notes & quotes: Strome (nine games) and Fox (seven) extended their respective point streaks . . . The Rangers’ penalty kill went 3-for-3 and has killed all 16 Washington power plays it has faced this season . . . Long Island native Keith Kinkaid started in goal for the Rangers and made 17 saves . . . Quinn wouldn’t say when Vitali Kravtsov, currently on the taxi squad, will make his Rangers debut. "The plan is obviously for him to continue to practice, and when we feel he can help, we’ll get him in there,’’ Quinn said . . . Quinn on forward Brendan Lemieux, who was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round pick after Saturday’s game: "Obviously, with Kravtsov here and [Brett] Howden getting healthy and some guys doing well in Hartford, it just seemed like the right thing to do . . . He was a good player for us and we’re gonna miss him.’’