EDMONTON -- The focus for the Rangers may be on the future, but this current crop of Blueshirts are just three points out of a playoff spot after topping the Oilers, 3-2, to sweep their three-game road trip through western Canada.
Alexandar Georgiev recorded his first career victory in the NHL, while Chris Kreider scored his first goal since returning from a blood clot on Feb. 23.
"It's huge. We're right there now," said Brady Skjei, who logged 18:03. "We've got a lot of - we're playing with a lot of emotion right now. We obviously lost a lot of our top guys that we started the year with, so other guys are stepping up. Playing with a little bit of desperation."
When New York lifted off on Monday, there was a cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over a club that went into the trade deadline losers of seven straight (0-6-1). But Tuesday's overtime win over Vancouver that led into last night's victory over Calgary has spring boarded the Blueshirts back into the playoff hunt.
"I don't think our expectations were very high after the deadline," Marc Staal admitted. "It was a hard thing to go through as team. Now, I think that it's over with, we have a lot of guys in this room that are trying to make names for themselves, trying to show what they've got and play in the NHL. I think that type of energy and type of desperation is contagious. We're starting to have some fun and relax a little bit and not grip the sticks too tight and won a few games."
Kreider opened the scoring in the first period off a feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th goal of the season, and first since Dec. 15.
After Connor McDavid tied the game early in the second, Zibanejad netted his 19th of the year on the power play 2:08 later to put the Blueshirts back in the lead. Paul Carey doubled the lead with his seven of the year 1:16 thereafter.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored late in the second, but Georgiev, making his third career start, shut the door the rest of the way and finished with 35 saves, including 15 in the third to earn his first victory.
"It felt unreal," he said. "Something like a dream. Amazing feeling and I'll remember it for my whole life."
The Rangers are now tied with the Islanders with 66 points, and are two behind Florida and three behind Columbus and Carolina, who currently owns the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
But they're in the game, and that's all anyone could ask.
"Obviously everyone knows it's a longshot," Staal said. "But we've strung a few together here. We have a lot of teams coming up that are ahead of us. Carolina a couple times, Islanders, Philly. Might as well make it interesting."