The New York Rangers had been one of the hottest teams in the league since the beginning of March.
However, they stumbled against one of the most downtrodden teams, falling 3-2 to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Rangers, who fell eight points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East, will have a chance for redemption when they host the Flyers again on Friday.
The Rangers, 16-9-3 since March 1, enter Friday's game with a 23-18-6 record, good for 52 points.
"Obviously, every loss hurts, but I think we're going to just keep playing hard until the end," New York defenseman Adam Fox said. "That's just the mindset. I don't think anything changes."
Mika Zibanejad continued his torrid play against the Flyers with an assist in the Thursday loss. He has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in seven games against the Flyers this season.
Rangers defenseman Zac Jones, a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, made his league debut Thursday and is expected to play a large role down the stretch.
"He's just a real heady player, a guy who can really shoot a puck," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "He plays with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. And again, he had a very successful (college) career, our organization has been very high on him since the day we drafted him. He's done nothing to disprove why we shouldn't be high on him. He's a World Junior player."
The Rangers could use a lift from Chris Kreider, who hasn't scored a five-on-five goal since March 13, totaling 21 games.
"At the end of the day, he's going to continue to come here and put forth a great effort and prepare like he always does," Quinn said.
Even with the latest win, the Flyers still trail the Rangers by three points with a 21-18-7 record, good for 49 points.
The Flyers are 10-14-4 since the beginning of March and will almost certainly miss the playoffs.
A year ago, the Flyers won their first playoff series since 2012.
"We're going to find out a lot about our guys here in these last games as far as them being true professionals," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I've talked to (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) about this on a couple of occasions, there are probably a couple of young guys that we're going to want to take a look at here moving forward, we we're going to use this time wisely. Right now, I want our guys to be in the present."
Captain Claude Giroux has been particularly frustrated by the team's collapse after a strong start.
"I think last year we took a huge step forward from the year before," Giroux said. "And not being able to take another step forward is definitely very frustrating to be in the position we're in now. I don't think we saw each other being in this position at this point of the year, so it's confusing and frustrating."
Philadelphia goaltender Carter Hart remains out with a lower-body injury, so Brian Elliott received the start on Thursday. Alex Lyon likely will start in the second leg of the back-to-back on Friday.
--Field Level Media