Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers face the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK -- One thing is almost certain heading into Sunday's game between the New York Rangers and Vegas Golden Knights: Whomever loses probably can't do so in any weirder or agonizing fashion than they did Friday night.
A pair of teams looking to bounce back from their roles in a historic NHL evening will square off Sunday afternoon, when the Rangers host the Golden Knights at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams were off Saturday after blowing three-goal leads in a pair of shocking overtime losses Friday night, when the Golden Knights fell to the host New Jersey Devils 5-4 and the Rangers were beaten by the visiting Arizona Coyotes 4-3.
Remarkably, the Golden Knights and Rangers weren't the only teams to squander a three-goal lead in a loss Friday night. The Carolina Hurricanes also did so in a 6-5 shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
According to the NHL, it was only the second time in history at least three teams came back from deficits of three goals or more. Four teams did it Nov. 25, 1987.
Not that the Golden Knights, Rangers and Hurricanes are looking to parse their Friday night "feat," but Vegas' blown lead against the Devils -- who entered Friday mired in a 1-4-4 rut -- was the most resounding of all.
The Golden Knights (18-14-2) chased Devils goalie Cory Schneider by racing out to a 3-0 lead in the first 9:23 of the first period. But New Jersey pulled to within 4-2 by the end of the second and scored twice in the third before earning its first overtime win of the season.
"We played a real good first 10 minutes of the hockey game and that was it," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told reporters afterward. "New Jersey took over after that."
The Rangers (14-13-4) had a little longer period of prosperity Friday, when they opened a 3-0 lead over the Coyotes 5:48 into the second period and carried a 3-1 lead into the third. But the result was the same -- a seemingly easy win slipping through their hands against a skidding opponent. Arizona snapped a four-game losing streak with the comeback victory.
"Maybe because we're going through this tough time, we're not confident enough," Rangers coach David Quinn told reporters after his team fell for the seventh time in nine games (2-5-2). "But we've got to get out of it in a hurry. We can't have a three-goal lead and a 3-1 lead going into the third period and do what we did."
Neither team has announced a starting goalie for Sunday -- the Rangers practiced while the Golden Knights had the day off -- but it seems likely at least one backup will be in net.
Marc-Andre Fleury made his 12th straight start for the Golden Knights Friday, when he took the loss after making 37 saves. He is almost sure to sit in favor of backup Malcom Subban on Sunday or Monday, when Vegas caps an Eastern Conference road trip by visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Subban hasn't played since Nov. 19, when he was saddled with the defeat after making 25 saves in a 7-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist started for the fourth time in as many games Friday, when he took the loss after recording 30 saves. Backup Alexandar Georgiev made his most recent start Dec. 1, when he received the defeat after he made 36 saves in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Fleury is 31-18-9 in 59 career games against the Rangers, whom he's faced more than any opponent. Subban has never opposed New York.
Lundqvist earned the win in his only appearance against the Golden Knights on Oct. 31, 2017, when he made 30 saves in the Rangers' 6-4 victory. Georgiev has never faced Vegas.