Current holders of the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers will more than likely not earn home ice advantage for the upcoming playoffs.
Frankly, the Rangers would like it that way.
Mats Zuccarello scored two goals, but it wasn’t enough to counter another Florida shootout and some history by Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers fell to the Panthers 4-3 at Madison Square Garden, where they are 0-4-2 in their past six.
The streak seemed to be ending for the Rangers (44-24-3) early on, as Zuccarello scored on an early power play, off assists from Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. Less than two minutes later, Brendan Smith earned his first point as a Ranger, in front of his brother Reilly, off an assist to JT Miller, who made it 2-0 before the first period broke.
However, afterwards Jagr, who spent 2004-08 helping the Rangers return to hockey’s national stage, took over the game with his linemates, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Huberdeau got the scoring started for Florida (31-28-11), with Jagr getting the primary assist. Jussi Jokinen would get a power play goal later in the second, before the Jagr trio contributed to another goal as Barkov put the Panthers ahead 3-2. With another primary helper, Jagr passed Gordie Howe for most NHL points scored at and over age 40.
The Rangers were able to score to force an extra period, Zuccarello providing the tying tally and earn his first multi-goal game since October 28. After a back and forth overtime period, Florida ended things in a relatively quick shot. Shooting second, the Panthers got a goal in the second round from Barkov, who again haunted the Rangers. Michael Grabner’s first shootout attempt of the season went wide, and the Rangers fell to the Panthers in the shootout for the second time this season.
The Rangers will seek road relief in a back-to-back, taking on the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul (7:00, MSG).