A night after a rare, emotional win in Montreal, the Rangers were shut out for the fourth time this season in a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
"Stupid goal, bad deflection. That was the difference," hard-luck loser Henrik Lundqvist (29 saves) said of the lone goal Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. It came on a point shot by Tyler Toffoli that deflected off Anton Stralman's skate at 1:23 of the second period.
"And one big thing going in: We said special teams will be a big part of this game, and it was, but not in our favor."
The Rangers (10-10), who fell to 4-4 at home, had five power-play opportunities to get the puck past Kings backup Ben Scrivens -- including two five-on-threes for a total of 50 seconds in the second period -- and failed on them all. The Rangers had 37 shots, including seven from Brad Richards, but decided to forego some that could've made a difference.
In the second period, Mats Zuccarello forfeited a wide-open look on a three-on-one shorthanded rush and forced a pass. He wasn't the only culprit. The Rangers couldn't break through on 5:11 worth of consecutive power plays, overpassing and managing only six shots.
"Pretty simple. You get a five-on-three, you have to score a goal," Derek Stepan said. "If you look at some of the situations, I saw plays to make -- the play was probably the shot -- but guys are looking to make plays. The shot's probably the play, yeah, but at the same time, if it's tape-to-tape and we get a [gimme] goal, you aren't asking the question."
Asked about Zuccarello's choice, coach Alain Vigneault said: "Some nights, some of those decisions aren't the right ones . . . It's disappointing. We had some good looks, but our execution was a little off."
Even a desperate move by Dom Moore at the right post in a scrum with 2:41 left in regulation couldn't tie the score. A review resulted in a no-goal call, and Vigneault didn't argue. "I looked at the replay," he said. "It was kicked in."
When the Rangers' offense dries up, they are parched. In their 10 losses, they have scored only 10 goals. Nonetheless, they had won four of five and seven of nine entering Sunday night.
The first period was physical and neither team looked sharp. The Rangers didn't arrive in their beds from Montreal until the wee hours because of fog; the Kings were playing their third road game in four nights. So there was plenty of dump-and-chase hockey, and when the Rangers got chances, they couldn't get a bounce or solve Scrivens.
Scrivens, subbing for injured No. 1 netminder Jonathan Quick, certainly has risen to the occasion in the past four days, also beating the Islanders and Devils.
Actually, the player who could have helped the Rangers in a tight game like this was absent. Rick Nash played one of the best games of his Rangers career in a 3-1 win in Los Angeles in early October. The power forward, who has scored at least 30 goals seven times, suffered a concussion in the next game and is champing at the bit to play Tuesday or Thursday.
You can bet he won't be as reluctant to shoot.