Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Night to Forget

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Night to Forget

Article excerpt

RALEIGH, N.C. - Eric Staal's first return to PNC Arena turned into a really bad night for the Rangers.

Bad because they could not clinch a playoff spot. Bad because they slipped in the standings. Bad because they were bystanders in the first period and then blew a one-goal lead in the third period. Bad because they lost, 4-3, to the Hurricanes on Thursday, a team they almost never lose to, despite scoring three times in the second period.

"There was so much lead up to Eric coming back here," his brother, defenseman Marc Staal said. "The whole [first] period, we were caught watching."

"You can't be surprised," goalie Henrik Lundqvist added. "You're disappointed. This is a game we should win."

But Victor Rask won it with a power-play goal at 9:06 of the third period - J.T. Miller had high-sticked Elias Lindholm -- as the Rangers lost a coach's challenge that the play was offside because the video evidence was inconclusive. Jeff Skinner had tied the game at 3 at 4:22 of the third period, deflecting in Ryan Murphy's initial shot.

"I think both [the first and third periods] were equally troubling and disappointing with what we had on the line tonight," said defenseman Dan Girardi, who had the puck go off his stick and to Jordan Staal on Rask's winner.

"An opportunity to get a checkmark by our name and clinch a playoff spot and with Eric coming back."

The Penguins and Islanders won Thursday night, so the Rangers (43- 25-9) slipped to third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Penguins. The Islanders, meanwhile, are just two points behind and have played one fewer game, leaving the Rangers in danger of slipping into a wild-card spot and having to face one of the Eastern Conference's division winners in the first round.

Lundqvist made 24 saves for the Rangers while Cam Ward stopped 24 shots for the Hurricanes (34-28-16), who snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Blueshirts. …

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