Rangers’ playoff dream takes big hit with loss to Blues

Rangers’ playoff dream takes big hit with loss to Blues

The Rangers couldn’t catch a break — or make one for themselves.

In what was a rather sleepy affair when the officials missed a handful of calls that could have sparked the dormant offense, the Blueshirts ended up dropping a 3-1 contest to the Blues at the Garden on Tuesday night.

The Rangers (35-27-4) had been on a hot streak, winning 9 of 10 before getting swept this weekend in a home-and-home with the Flyers. Coupled with the loss of Chris Kreider to a fractured foot suffered blocking a shot on Friday in Philadelphia — and presumptive No. 1 goalie Igor Shesterkin having broken a rib on Feb. 23 — the good feeling was fleeting while the second wild-card was getting more distant.

Of course, the Blues (40-17-10) were the defending Stanley Cup champions, and looked in a good position to make a run at a repeat.

“Obviously with this team, with their experience and their size and strength, and their success, it’s a challenge. It’s a huge challenge,” coach David Quinn said before the game. “But every night in the National Hockey League is a huge challenge.”

The Rangers had been up to it for the opening 40 minutes, playing a rather tight game going into the third tied, 1-1. But goalie Alexandar Georgiev then allowed a bad goal on a wrap-around from Brayden Schenn, going in off Georgiev’s right skate at 9:56 to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.

Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko had a few chances to score in the game, including a great look with about 2:45 left in regulation, but it was stopped by goalie Jordan Binnington. Kakko had not scored since Feb. 3, his only goal in the past two months.

Then with Georgiev on the bench for the extra attacker, Ryan Strome had a couple hacks that didn’t go, and the Blues sealed it with an empty-netter from Jaden Schwartz with 5.9 seconds left.

This was Georgiev’s fourth start in the past five games since Shesterkin was hurt, with Henrik Lundqvist suffering a difficult time in a very rare start, a 5-3 loss to the Flyers at the Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Georgiev didn’t need to be super-sharp early on, and his team was able to take a 1-0 lead on a Mika Zibanejad power-play goal at 12:26 of the first period. It was his 33rd goal of the season — even after missing 13 games early on with a neck ailment — surpassing Artemi Panarin for the team lead.

Georgiev made a pair of impressive stops on Schwartz from in front early in the second period to maintain the one-goal lead. But soon thereafter, Ryan Strome was called for a phantom slash — unlike his two ghastly penalties on Sunday, which earned him a seat on the bench for all of the third period of the loss to the Flyers. The Blues took advantage, with Colton Paryako scoring a power-play goal at 2:35 to tie it, 1-1, with the score staying that way going into the third.

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