The New York Rangers saw it coming, but couldn't avoid it.
Having drubbed high-flying Nashville two nights earlier in a game they considered a testimony to their legitimacy, the Rangers came out flat on Saturday night against cellar-dwelling St. Louis.
But in a fitting end to their most bizarre game of this stunning season, the Rangers completed a whirlwind final five minutes of play with a crazy-bounce goal by Martin Rucinsky during a three-on-three 1:37 into overtime to outlast the Blues, 5-4.
And when Rucinsky's slap shot, deflected by sprawling St. Louis defenseman Bryce Salvador over the net, ricocheted off the back glass and into the cage off the back of goaltender Patrick Lalime, the Rangers had completed a 2-0-1 trip through the Midwest.
"We'll take it, you'd better believe it," Rangers coach Tom Renney said of getting five points out of a possible six on the trip. "We've been a pretty good team this year. And we haven't had too many games that bark. This one was a big dog.
"But we'll take it, darn right. Because we've lost some games where we thought we should have had a better outcome too."
Wednesday night's trip opener in Chicago would fall into that category. That was when the Rangers dominated territorially but were foiled by Nikolai Khabibulin's goaltending and their own dreadful power play and lost in overtime.
The next night in Nashville, the Rangers weren't overly impressive but they were explosive offensively in a 5-1 triumph.
Saturday night, against a St. Louis team that has the NHL's worst record, the Rangers could do almost nothing right. Except, that is, when the puck neared either net.
In his first start since suffering a severe ankle bruise Thanksgiving night, Kevin Weekes made 27 saves, but easily could have let in more than four goals against a spirited St. Louis attack. At the other end of the rink, Lalime wasn't very good at all, and his luck wasn't much better on either the winning goal or Jaromir Jagr's tally in the third period that bounced off his shoulder and into the net.
"We were fortunate that we scored some lucky goals on some lucky bounces," Rucinsky said.
"That wasn't lucky, you know the game," an eavesdropping Jagr cracked from the adjacent locker stall. "That's what you play 12 years for. You're a professional."
In other NHL action: Philadelphia 3, Minnesota 2; Los Angeles 3, Florida 1; Dallas 2, Toronto 1; Anaheim 5, Montreal 3; Pittsburgh 4, Colorado 3; NY Islanders 3, Edmonton 2 (SO); Tampa Bay 4, Nashville 3; San Jose 4, Carolina 3; Calgary 2, Ottawa 1 (OT).