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The Rangers wrapped seven of their core players in Bubble Wrap and stored them in the press box safely out of reach when the Canadiens came to the Madison Square Garden ice on Wednesday.

OK, not literally. But the sentiment still stands.

It was the only thing to do after a couple of injury scares earlier in the week, and so the Rangers accepted a 4-3 loss to the reeling Canadiens, who snapped a nine-game losing streak, in their second-to-last game of the regular season.

Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad were all healthy scratches, while Andrew Copp (lower body) and Artemi Panarin (upper body) were held out of the lineup after exiting the 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday with injuries.

So that left a skeleton of the Rangers’ usual lineup, which did get at least one staple back in Kaapo Kakko, who was sidelined the previous four games with a lower-body injury that he sustained shortly after missing 31 straight contests with a suspected wrist injury.

Josh Anderson #17 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates a second period goal by Jeff Petry #26 (not shown) against Alexandar Georgiev #40 of the New York Rangers
The Rangers rested their core players on Wednesday night.
Getty Images

Still, the Rangers B team went goal-for-goal with the Canadiens before Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry scored his second of the game with 30.7 seconds left in regulation to secure the win.

Libor Hajek skated in just his 17th game of the season and first since March 12. The 24-year-old defenseman lined up alongside Zac Jones, who was recalled from AHL Hartford earlier in the day to participate in his 12th NHL contest of the season.

As for the rest of the forward group, Jonny Brodzinski, Julien Gauthier and Greg McKegg filled in throughout the bottom six.

The decision to withhold Zibanejad from the lineup ended the Swede’s team-high streak of consecutive games played at 184. Keeping their No. 1 center healthy for the playoffs, however, was naturally more of a priority for the Rangers.

Since Zibanejad, Kreider and Trouba sat out of Game 81 of 82, second-year defenseman K’Andre Miller is the only Ranger who has a shot at playing in every game this season.

Expect head coach Gerard Gallant to sit out more regulars in the final game of the season against the Capitals on Friday. The players who are most likely to get a breather after competing Wednesday night include Ryan Strome, Barclay Goodrow, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Reaves.

After Ryan Poehling scored late in the first period to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, the Rangers answered less than five minutes into the middle frame. Reaves notched his fifth goal of the season to tie it up, but Petry sniped one high on Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev with 8.8 seconds left in the second to regain the lead for Montreal.

Vatrano kept the Rangers in it when the trade-deadline acquisition beat Montreal netminder Sam Montembeault with a sharp wrist shot from the left circle 4:15 into the third period to knot the game 2-2.

The Rangers and Canadiens traded goals, one from Mike Hoffman and a shorthanded goal from Strome at 15:41 of the third period before Petry scored the game-winner.

Source: NYPOST

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