If last year’s Rangers season was a scary roller coaster — reaching surprising heights early, plummeting for much of the season, then rising again in the season’s final days — this year is more like a highway on-ramp dotted with potholes: gradually rising with regular, but brief, dips. Case in point: Since the opening week of the season, the Rangers haven’t lost more than two consecutive games, but on three occasions have won three in a row en route to a 22-15-3 record. It’s not the stuff of Cup contenders, necessarily, but, should they keep it up, it’s also not the stuff of a team that will see their postseason hopes come down to a shoot-out on the season’s final day.
And so, following a week in which the Rangers topped both of their local rivals, this weekend they fell to both of the league’s Florida franchises. In the first of those, in Tampa on Saturday, they earned a point thanks to a late goal from Marian Gaborik, only to lose nineteen seconds into overtime while you were watching the Winter Classic. Then yesterday, they lost the second of back-to-back games for the first time in ten tries this season — that they’d won the first nine is a testament to this team’s conditioning — with Florida’s Chris Higgins (who you’ll recall had all sorts of trouble finding the net while with the Rangers) tallying a key goal in the third period to make the score 2–0. Next up: Carolina, at the Garden, on Wednesday night.