Missing Piece Turning Into Missing Problem

NEW YORK – He was the player that was going to help bring New York its first Stanley Cup since 1994.

He was the sniper missing from a low-scoring outfit that had missed the Stanley Cup Final by two wins.

He was the missing piece that was going to turn the Rangers into a championship team.

Instead, Rick Nash has one goal in 23 postseason games since joining the franchise before the 2012-2013 season.

Instead, he was booed every time he touched the puck in the third period, as the Rangers lost Game 4 of the Metropolitan Division Finals against the Penguins, 4-2. Pittsburgh can eliminate the Rangers on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center.

“It doesn’t matter what you do all year,” Nash said after his latest scoreless postseason effort. “It matters what you do in the playoffs when things count.”

This latest playoff stumble isn’t only on Nash. It’s on Martin St. Louis, too. After coming to the Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan at the trade deadline, he has two goals in 11 postseason games after scoring a total of one goal in 19 regular-season games in New York.

It’s on Derek Stepan, who has two goals this postseason and seven in 48 career postseason games.

It’s a team-wide issue for the Blueshirts. So when Nash and St. Louis heard boos in the third period every time they touched the puck, it set off anger throughout the locker room.

“It upsets everybody in the locker room. We’re not 15th in the league, losing in April 8-1. We’re in the second round of the playoffs,” said Richards. “I understand sports and where it’s all at. So does he. So does everybody in here. It’s not one person, it’s the whole team. As a team, we didn’t play tonight. For one guy or two guys to get booed, or whatever it is, it’s frustrating as a team because we all put our foot in this together tonight.”

“Yeah, by far,” Nash said when asked if this was the most frustrated he had been in his entire career. “It’s a battle right now, especially with plays happening the way they did. It’s ultra-frustrating.”

“I’d prefer, right now, if our fans were supportive,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “It might not look it, but we’re trying our guts off, here. We’re trying to play our best game on the ice. We’re trying our best. I’d prefer if we’d have support, but at the end of the day the fans can do ultimately what they want.”

The Rangers are at the brink of elimination after a dispiriting loss during which they managed more giveaways (25) than shots on goal (15). The performance was so baffling, it led to a post-game closed-door meeting that lasted for over ten minutes.

“We got in our own way, uncharacteristically didn’t execute, and it mounted,” Richards said. “It just seems like everything right now is going that way. The reason we met is because it can go the other way on anyone just as quick. The last thing we can do tonight is go home thinking this is over.”

Well, it’s almost over. The Rangers power play not only was scoreless on a pair of opportunities, it allowed a shorthanded goal late in the second period. The man advantage has now failed on each of their last 36 attempts.

“It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie to you; this is not the ideal night for us,” Richards said. “This time of year, the amount of time and effort we put into trying to put our best game on the ice, and for whatever reason we just didn’t put it together.”

NOTES:

The Rangers have never won a series after trailing 3-1.

Carl Hagelin scored the Rangers’ first goal since Game 1 at 5:30 of the second period ending the team’s multi-game scoreless streak at 145:30.

Adding shots on goal, blocked, and missed, the Penguins out-attempted the Rangers, 66-38.

The Rangers won a postseason-low 18 faceoffs, and won just 37% of the draws in the game. (18-for-47)

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM:

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