Over the past seven days, the Rangers have finally started to play like a team fighting for their playoff lives. Despite a rash of injuries, they’ve earned seven points out of a possible eight, at a time when they can’t afford anything less. They’ve played desperate. They’ve hung around. But when you’re in tenth place with just a handful of games left to go, you need some help from the teams ahead of you. Last night, they didn’t get it.
The Rangers did their part, rallying from a 2–0 deficit to beat the Islanders 4–3. Marian Gaborik tallied his 40th goal of the year to break a 2–2 tie, then Mark Staal scored for the first time in more than two months to provide what would turn out to be the game-winner. But Boston won, too (in overtime against the Devils), and so did Atlanta, so the standings remain the same, except now the Rangers are four points behind the Bruins with just six games to go.
Three of the Rangers’ next four games are against non-playoff teams, but they may have flipped the switch a week too late: The consecutive losses to Montreal, St. Louis, and especially Boston two weeks ago are proving awfully difficult to overcome. A couple of wins in that stretch, and the Rangers would control their destiny. The way they’ve played of late, that’s a deal you’d take in a heartbeat. Instead, they’ll scoreboard-watch for the next week and a half. There comes a point at which winning alone isn’t enough.