Desperation a Good Look for Rangers

Shootout win keeps Rangers in three-way tie for playoff spot

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Lundqvist stood tall for two points.

    The shootout is an imperfect way to settle a hockey game.

    It's exciting, to be sure, but it is also using a skills competition to award an extra point to a team that may or may not actually deserve one based on the way the first 65 minutes of the game play out.

    We've also seen plenty of teams ride shootout losses to playoff berths over teams who wind up getting punished for playing to win in regulation. 

    That's a bad way to decide who gets those coveted spots, especially since so many people have jobs that rely on the results of breakaway contests given too outsize a place after long nights of hockey. There are worse things about Gary Bettman's NHL, but few that have such an impact on a nightly basis. 

    All that said, the Rangers should feel very glad for its existence at this hour. The shootout allowed them to save some face after blowing a third period lead and grab a vital second point in a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs. 

    The win keeps them tied with the Senators and Islanders for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, although they lose the tiebreaker to each team, and two points up on the Jets. With a game on Long Island looming on Saturday, that point is massive and explained why the Rangers seemed so relieved that Mats Zuccarello was the only guy to score a goal in the shootout. 

    There weren't a ton of smiles when Phil Kessel scored for the second time in the game to tie things at two in the third period. It had been a game solidly in the Rangers' column at that point after they'd held Toronto without so much as a shot for more than a full period of game action, pinning them deep in their own end several times while scoring twice to erase the lead gained on Kessel's first goal of the game. 

    Complete control belonged to the Rangers, who were more defensively focused and effective than they'd been in Toronto on Monday night, and they handed it away on that second Kessel goal. One point wouldn't be enough to make the playoff picture look better and a regulation loss would have been disaster because most of the night saw them as the better team. 

    Henrik Lundqvist didn't let it happen, making several big saves in the third and overtime to keep his team in a tie before stoning the Leafs all three times in the shootout. These are desperate times for the Rangers and Lundqvist is the biggest reason to believe they can navigate them well enough to advance to the postseason. 

    Getting the energy up for Saturday's date with the Islanders shouldn't be a problem, even if it has been decades since the two teams have played this big a game for both teams this late in a season.

    Desperation worked out at the Garden, now the Rangers will find out if it plays on the road as well. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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