Rangers showing potential after trades with ‘room to build’

The Rangers are disconnected, the Rangers barely play defense, the Rangers turn the puck over way too much, the Rangers got the wrong guys, the Rangers have no chance, the Rangers …

… The Rangers have gone 3-0-1 in their last four games and 5-2-1 in their last eight after taking down the Caps 5-3 at the Garden on Tuesday in the club’s most impressive performance since the deadline.

Maybe the sky wasn’t falling. Maybe it had just been overcast.

“Everybody had been a little frustrated with the way we’ve played so we came out hot,” Patrick Kane, who scored on a power-play slapper from the point in his most dynamic performance in Blue, said after his team had been dominant for much of the first 30 minutes in building a 4-1 lead. “There’s room to build off of this one.’’

There’s room to grow and there is some breathing room in the battle to secure third place in the Metro with the Rangers’ lead over the Penguins — who play at the Garden on Thursday and Saturday — swelling to eight points with 15 games to go after Pittsburgh’s 6-4 defeat at home to Montreal.

Remember how the Blueshirts were excoriated for needing a shootout to beat the Habs in Montreal last Thursday?

Rangers right wing Patrick Kane celebrates with his teammates after he scores a goal during the first period.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“At the beginning of the season we were playing well but could not close out games, now maybe we’re not playing up to our capabilities but we got five out of six points [on the trip]. Which do you think teams around the league would prefer?” Mika Zibanejad asked The Post before scoring twice against the Caps. “Everyone wants to play their best and win, but that’s not always possible.

“We haven’t been at our best, we want to play better and get back to our game, but we’re still grabbing points. It’s not as if there is any reason for panic in here. We know how much we have in this room.”

The Rangers were rolling in the deep with a four-line rotation employed by head coach Gerard Gallant, who started the Jimmy Vesey-Barclay Goodrow-Tyler Motte fourth unit each period. After two periods, there was just a 57-second differential in ice time from the line with the fewest minutes to the one with the most.

Want a hoot? When Tom Wilson acted up a couple of times, it was Goodrow, Motte and Big Ben Harpur — three guys who surely were not a part of the imbroglio No. 43 ignited at the Garden the final week of 2020-21.

Remember the start of the year referenced by Zibanejad? The Rangers were not only failing to close out games, but were grappling with heightened expectations off last year’s run to the conference finals. Fast-forward five months. Here they are again.

“These trades created certain immediate expectations from the outside that we cannot control. We have to understand that,” Zibanejad said. “The deals obviously make us better. We got three unbelievable guys. It’s just going to take a little time for us to become who we are.

“Sometimes when you don’t have that confidence or that swag, it can look different. Everybody here wants it so bad. If you want it too bad, nothing happens.”

The Rangers wanted this one and made it happen. Chemistry is evolving between Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko, the pair working a neat give-and-go that led to No. 93’s game-opening goal at 4:09 of the first. That established the template.

No, this was not a pristine 60-minute performance against a sagging Caps team that played without the ailing Putinista, Alex Ovechkin. The Blueshirts got sloppy with a three-goal lead in the second. They took too many penalties.

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad is all smiles as he celebrates with right wing Vladimir Tarasenko after he scores a goal.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I guess the [phrase] I always use is, ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ a little bit,” said Gallant. “Trying to get too cute, trying to make the fancy plays again.”

Just call him Meadowlark Panarin.

“We’re trying to figure out our chemistry and our balance, but it’s not as if we’re the only team to hit a bump in the road,” Vesey said. “Tampa Bay just went through a terrible stretch. Pittsburgh had gone through a terrible stretch before getting out of it.

“The league is a lot tighter than people might realize. There are a lot of good teams, there are a lot of upcoming teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit that probably won’t be in the playoffs but are tough opponents.

Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba checks Washington Capitals center Craig Smith into the boards.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“So you want to keep this in perspective,” said No. 26. “We have a Vezina goalie [Igor Shesterkin]. We have a Norris defenseman [Adam Fox]. We have unbelievable talent up front that goes three lines deep.

“At the end of the day, I think we all feel good about our team.”