NEW YORK – Just nine days ago, the Rangers had scored four-or-more goals in three straight games.
In their last four games, they’ve scored a total of four goals. Perhaps not surprisingly, the scoring slump has them in the throes of a 1-3-0 streak, falling to 10-11-0 on the season. But that’s all it is: a slump.
“You go through this every year,” said captain Ryan Callahan, who had three shots on goal in 19:01 of ice time. “There are stretches where it seems like everything is going in, there are stretches where you can’t put it in. I think the biggest thing is to make sure you’re playing well, make sure you’re getting those opportunities.”
“Right now, we’re doing all the little things you’re supposed to do to win,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “One thing we have to start doing is make the opposition pay for their mistakes. Boston made a lot of mistakes tonight, turned the puck over; we have to start capitalizing on that. We have the skillset and the talent to do it.”
It’s not that the Rangers aren’t generating enough offense. They poured 44 shots on Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, who earned his 12th win of the season. Counting the 23 shots the Bruins defense blocked, and the 18 shots the Rangers whistled wide, they threw 85 shot attempts towards Rask. Only one of them found its way into the back of the net in New York’s 2-1 loss against Boston (14-6-1).
“For the most part we made good decisions with the puck,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “We can take all the good things we did, working their D down low, making them turn, making them turn pucks over; we did a good job of that. Good job of throwing pucks from everywhere, just unfortunate we couldn’t get the win.”
“We couldn’t finish. Chances were definitely there. We didn’t outwork their goalie enough to score,” said Rick Nash, who made his return after missing 17 games with a concussion. “We had a good game. Obviously it wasn’t good enough. … We got to be better at finishing. We had lots of chances, lots of shots. We have to get better at getting traffic and burying chances.”
Nash’s return was a bright spot for the Rangers. The big 6’4”, 213 pound forward wasn’t outstanding in his return, but he made his presence known during nearly 18 minutes of ice time, during which he threw five shots on goal, and another six that didn’t finish their route to the cage.
“I felt OK,” Nash said. “A bit slow in making plays. I had a couple chances to make plays where I could have passed it, just had my head down and think that’s where the timing and speed come.”
“For only having a couple of practices and stepping in tonight, he had three or four Grade ‘A’ scoring chances,” Vigneault said of Nash. “Sooner or later those are going to start to go in.”
In the big picture, Nash’s return is more important than an inability to score. In the short-term picture, the troubles begin and end with the fact they don’t have an even-strength goal in three games.
“We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do to get [five-on-three goals],” Vigneault said. “As a player, you have to believe in yourself, you got to keep working hard, come back to work tomorrow.
“As a team, we played really well,” said Henrik Lundqvist (20 saves). “We created chances, we worked hard, we put a lot of pressure on them. Not to have the lead after the first was a little tough. In the second, for me, I hardly touched the puck. It was hard to get some flow into this game. It was just, when we’re not scoring, you have to come up with the big save, and I didn’t. You try not to let frustration creep into the game.”
The Rangers have held opponents to two-or-fewer goals in 12 of their last 14 games, and 13 of their last 16. In fact, they’ve allowed a total of 27 goals in their last 16 games, an average of 1.69 goals allowed.
The Rangers and Bruins have been separated by one goal in 20 of their last 25 meetings, and the Rangers are 12-6-2 in those one-goal games over the span.
The Rangers outshot their opponent (44-22 tonight) for the fifth straight game. It was the third time this season they had 40-or-more shots. They have five games with 40-or-more shots in their shortened 48-game campaign last year.
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