It’s difficult to find the silver lining in a shutout loss, and even more so when it all but officially ends your hopes of making the playoffs, but that’s what the Rangers forced themselves to do Saturday night.
The Rangers’ 3-0 loss to the now playoff-bound Islanders at the Coliseum knocked them nine points behind the Isles and eight points behind the Bruins in the East Division standings. The Rangers’ elimination number is now down to a single point, which means any point they lose or Boston gains would knock them out of the playoffs.
Following the defeat, the Blueshirts rummaged through every possible positive they could find from a disheartening performance.
“I actually thought it was better than Thursday,” head coach David Quinn said, referring to the first of the two-game set with the Islanders, a 4-0 loss at the Garden. “I thought we were much more competitive, we had some chance. Obviously, they get out to that early lead, first five or six minutes we’re on our heels. Then I thought we found our way a little bit throughout that middle stretch of the first period.
“Then they get the second one, which was — once they get up two-nothing the complexion of the game changes with the way they play, and we just weren’t able to get back in it. This didn’t feel like the other night, obviously the score was similar, but it didn’t feel like the other night.”
It certainly looked a lot like the past two games against the Islanders — in which the Rangers were outscored by a combined 10-1, and the Islanders came away with what looked like two effortless victories. The Rangers’ veterans, once again, were nowhere to be found.
The Rangers also were even more outmatched than usual. Three of their lineup staples — Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren — were unable to play due to injuries. Two of the players who took their place had been called up from the AHL the day before. One, Morgan Barron, made his NHL debut; the other, Tarmo Reunanen, was skating in just his second game.
“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” Quinn said of the players lost to injury.
The results were the same as Thursday: a Rangers shutout loss. In both games, the Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, before Anthony Beauvillier potted the third goal just over a minute into the middle frame. On Thursday, it was at the 1:03 mark; on Saturday, it was at 1:02.
Beauvillier had two goals in Saturday’s win, which clinched a playoff spot for the Islanders and marked their third-straight postseason bid of the Lou Lamoriello-Barry Trotz regime. It’s the first time the organization has made the playoffs three years in a row since they did so from 2002-04.
“It’s always exciting to be back in the playoffs,” said Mathew Barzal, whose breakaway goal late in the second made it 2-0. “Doing it [Saturday] against the Rangers at home is an even better feeling. We’re excited as a group, and we’ve got some games here to fine-tune our game before playoffs, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
For all the hoopla that has gone down between the Rangers and Islanders over the years at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, there wasn’t much to be said about Saturday’s contest.
The final round of the Battle of New York belonged to the Islanders. The next one on Long Island will be 11 miles down Hempstead Turnpike.