Hungry Sharks are a scary sight in any body of water.
Ditto for skating Sharks starved for a victory.
Defeated in their last six games, San Jose’s version of big, nasty ice fish turned on the Rangers last night at SAP Center, and the results were not pleasant for the visitors.
With Henrik Lundqvist making his second straight start following an injury sabbatical, the Blueshirts — after a terrific comeback — were burned 5-4 in overtime by potential Hart and Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns.
Not that there’s particular concern for the Blueshirts overall since a playoff berth has been clinched, but a victory in San Jose on the just-completed road trip would have made the flight home a bit more enjoyable.
Despite a loss, the Rangers had a strong third period and were able to gain the point they needed to clinch their playoff return.
That said, the Seventh Avenue Skaters can do their winning, for a change, at home on Friday night when the defending champion Penguins visit The Garden.
OVERVIEW: While the Rangers road magic is a bit less magical, the trick now is to regroup at home and demonstrate on Friday night that winning at The Garden is not an issue. Playoffs are not that far away. From here to regular season’s end, the objective is for the Blueshirts to be playoff-ready when the post-season begins.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- SLOW START: The Sharks swarmed around the Rangers in the opening minutes and jumped into the lead. For more than half the game, San Jose dominated and in the post-game coach Alain Vigneault zeroed in on that issue.
- SHORTHANDED WOES: Once again the Blueshirts were victimized by a shorthanded goal and it set them back early in the game, causing them to battle from behind.
- UN-SPECIAL ENCORE: The penalty-killing specialists must upgrade their performances. New York was penalized three times and relinquished the game-winner on a power play in overtime. At least the power play produced a pair of goals, so it wasn’t a total special teams failure.
- DEFENSIVE DEMERITS: Signals got crossed too often in front of Lundqvist, allowing San Jose to exploit the opportunities.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- BETTER BRADY: Rookie defenseman Brady Skjei continues to excel. He established single-game career highs with three assists and three points, recording two power play assists and led all skaters with five hits.
- J.T. = JUST TERRIFIC: Rising star J.T. Miller tied a single-game career high with two goals, while registering four shots on goal. He also added to his career-high in points (54) and his 22 goals this season are tied for his career-high.
Ron Duguay, Steve Valiquette and Bill Pidto break down J.T. Miller's dominant game in which he scored two goals.
- A.V. ALAIN VICTORIOUS: Blueshirts leader is the third coach in Rangers history who has guided the team to the playoffs in at least four straight seasons. Rangers patriarch and original coach Lester Patrick was the first followed by Emile (The Cat) Francis.
TURNING POINTS: Late in the third period a defensive collapse allowed Chris Tierney to score his second goal of the night to tie the game at 4-4. Then, allowing Brent Burns to shoot the puck in overtime which, of course, led to the game-winner.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- DEREK STEPAN: “We didn’t play the right way for the first two periods but I really, really liked what we did in the third period. This group deserves high marks for responding the way it did.”
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “I’m glad we’re in the playoffs, but I need to find a way to get the job done and get the win.”
Henrik Lundqvist is glad the Rangers clinched a playoff spot, but is not pleased with his effort in allowing five goals for a second straight game.
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “For the first 39 minutes, we didn’t show up. We didn’t make a play and we didn’t execute. We played well in the third period and we’re in the playoffs which is obviously the first goal and we checked that off. I’m going to take some time to analyze this game.”
- MAVEN’S REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER (IN SAN JOSE): “Games are 60 minutes, regulation, not 21 minutes. Scoring in the third period and tying the game was good. So is qualifying for the playoffs.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins visit The Garden on Friday. Among other things, Sidney Crosby, Inc. will attempt to shore up the Pens playoff seeding.
GAME TIME: 7:00 PM E.T. TV: MSG 2. RADIO: 98.7 FM ESPN.
BOTTOM LINE: The Sharks were desperate to break their losing streak while the Rangers were less intense. Ergo: San Jose wins in overtime. Heartening, however, was the pulsating Rangers comeback in the third period before losing the lead. Meanwhile, King Henrik will rub off more rust against Pittsburgh.