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The Rangers fell short of their ultimate goal this season.
Making the playoffs has been a daunting challenge for the Rangers in the last month and a half, one that the team attacked head on. But a Bruins’ playoff-spot clinching win, coupled with a 6-3 loss to the Capitals on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, officially knocked the Blueshirts out of the postseason.
The Rangers may have been undermanned without Chris Kreider (lower body), Ryan Lindgren (upper body) and Jacob Trouba (presumed concussion), but so were the Caps.
It was announced prior to the game that top-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov, as well as goalie Ilya Samsonov, would not dress after being late to a team function. Winger T.J. Oshie was not in the Capitals’ lineup due to personal reasons, and it was revealed that defenseman Justin Schultz was out with a lower-body injury.
Washington was supposed to get top scorer Alex Ovechkin back after four games without him, but he took one shift and headed to the locker room.
Despite the depleted lineups, there was no shortage of action. Things started to heat up early in the second with the Capitals up 2-1, when Tom Wilson was visibly displeased after being called for roughing Adam Fox. Mika Zibanejad capitalized on that power play for his second goal of the night to tie the game.
The Rangers sustained the momentum, with Kaapo Kakko finishing a highlight-reel, two-on-one rush with Alexis Lafreniere at 4:35 to take their first lead of the game.
After Washington was called for too many men on the ice, it fueled an already agitated Capitals bench. And Wilson was the one to act out, punching Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while he was face down on the ice following the whistle. Artemi Panarin jumped on Wilson’s back, and the known instigator body slammed the Rangers forward to the ice.
Wilson received a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Panarin didn’t skate in the final 12:20 of the middle frame and didn’t return Rangers’ bench to start the third.
The Capitals then broke the game open, scoring three unanswered goals, with one at the end of the second and three in the third.
After trading power plays early in the first, the Capitals got on the board with two goals roughly 1 ¹/₂ minutes apart. But Zibanejad managed to keep the Rangers in the game, sending a hard wrist shot far side to cut the deficit to one goal with two minutes left in the opening frame.