The New York Rangers were less than a minute from wrapping up a four-game homestand with a win until a plucky, playoff-bound Colorado Avalanche club tied the score, 2-2, on Tyson Barrie's equalizer with 51.4 seconds left on the clock.
The Avs topped the Rangers 3-2 in the shootout, with Barrie also tallying the winner in the skills competition.
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was sensational, stopped all three Rangers shooters.
The Rangers left Denver with one point, leaving their magic number to clinch a playoff spot at two points.
They'll now return home to Madison Square Garden for a three-game homestand before ending the regular season with a quick trip to Montreal next Saturday.
Good sign: The Rangers were without top defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the lineup, but the 24-year-old blue-liner painted an optimistic picture of his availability for the postseason. McDonagh told reporters during the first intermission that he was "pretty confident" he'd be ready to go come playoff time. McDonagh also revealed he sustained no structural damage in his left shoulder after a hit from Vancouver Canucks' forward Alex Burrows in the final minute of Tuesday's 3-1 win. McDonagh is still dealing with a limited range of motion and some discomfort, however, and won't return until he's fully comfortable that he can play and contribute at an optimal level.
Stepping up: Even with McDonagh's glaring absence, a void that seemed particularly conspicuous during the second period, the Rangers got a big boost from their blue line when defenseman John Moore gave the team a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into play. Moore returned to the lineup after his own absence, when he was sidelined for six games because of a concussion.
Around the East: The Rangers got some help from a fellow Metropolitan Division opponent, when the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. The Flyers now trail the Rangers by four points in the standings, though they have two games in hand. As of now, home-ice advantage is up for grabs between the two bitter rivals who are battling for the second spot in the division.