Rangers only have one chance in desperate playoff push

The right players are getting hot at the right time for the Rangers, but they’ll need everybody contributing to the cause to catch the Bruins for the final playoff spot. The Rangers trail Boston,

The right players are getting hot at the right time for the Rangers, but they’ll need everybody contributing to the cause to catch the Bruins for the final playoff spot.

The Rangers trail Boston, which has two games in hand, by four points in the East with 11 games left in their regular season. They also trail the Islanders, who the Blueshirts will meet three times through the remaining games, by eight points. The Isles also still have three games left against the first-place Capitals.

So there were the rookies, Vitali Kravtsov and Alexis Lafreniere, scoring one goal apiece to help the Rangers complete a four-game sweep of the Devils with a 5-3 win Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center.

And Chris Kreider, who has been snake-bitten as of late, kept the power play competitive with the first goal of the game.

Since March 13, the Rangers have three players — Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox — among the top six point-producers in the NHL. That has been vital to the team’s ability to close in on the Bruins, who undoubtedly feel the Rangers breathing down their necks.  

It is also expected of those aforementioned players. But when one loss can throw the team off trajectory, head coach David Quinn is looking to each of his players to take their turn impacting the game.

“If you’re going to make the push we need to push, you need everybody contributing,” Quinn said after the win. “It can’t just be a line, it can’t just be a couple players, it needs to be everybody. Usually what happens is players take turns making a difference night in and night out. It can’t just be a line or a guy.”

That’s what transpired on Sunday, with Kravtsov and Lafreniere jumping into the mix after a majority of the team’s offense throughout the four-game series was produced by Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome.

As Zibanejad pointed out, there are going to be games in which the usual suspects don’t score despite having a ton of chances. It’ll be up to their teammates to recognize when it’s happening and fill in the void.

Kravtsov, skating in his ninth NHL game Sunday, took it upon himself to turn up the pressure in the Devils’ zone and forced a turnover late in the first period. It was an easy puck for Brett Howden to collect and dish back to the 21-year-old winger for the 2-0 score.  

It all stemmed from Kravtsov taking the initiative, which is something the Rangers will need from him down the stretch. After the Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko line failed to contribute through the first three games against New Jersey, they broke through early in the second to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

But when the Devils scored three straight to tie the game, it was Zibanejad’s power-play goal that helped avert disaster.

Alexis Lafrenière (left) celebrates his goal with teammate Anthony Bitetto.
AP

“You’re not going anywhere without your top players pulling their weight,” Quinn said. “Ideally, we’d like to have them pulling their weight and our young guys playing the way they did maybe in the Islanders series. We’re hoping we can get all of that happening during this last 11 games left.

“If that happens, we’re going to give ourselves a chance. Rarely have we all had it clicking. Hopefully that’ll happen starting Tuesday.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mollie Walker

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