Rangers lose to Blues, 2-1
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Henrik Lundqvist has beaten every NHL team in his career -- except St. Louis. That fact didn't change after the Rangers lost to the Blues, 2-1, Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Lundqvist (23 saves) wasn't the sole culprit, of course. It was the 0-for-3 power play and a penalty kill that allowed the winning goal by Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk just nine seconds into a power play at 3:09 of the third period, snapping a 1-1 tie.
"It's the first time in a long time that I felt our power play let us down," Brad Richards said. "We were just not pounding the puck. They score on a power play and we don't; that's the game."
In a physical game with a combined 45 hits, Rick Nash scored his 17th goal of the season and 10th in 10 games at 18:17 of the second period to tie it at 1. He had seven shots and another five attempts blocked, but it was his slash on Shattenkirk that provided the opening for the Blues to squeeze through.
David Backes, who had two assists, eight hits and four shots, screened Lundqvist on the goal.
"It's a guessing game. You try to read where the puck is going, I just felt it touch me and it went in," Lundqvist said. "We played really well five-on-five. It came down to one play there. It's very disappointing to not come out of here with at least a point."
The Rangers (27-23-3), who will play the Devils on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, lost their second straight in regulation at home despite outshooting the Blues 35-25.
Two days after getting whipped by the Devils, 7-1, in New Jersey, the Blues (34-11-5) showed why they're a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. This time they scored the first and last goals, and as coach Ken Hitchcock said: "The power play came through for us again."
The win might have been costly. Leading scorer Alexander Steen suffered a lower-body injury, apparently on a second-period check from Dan Girardi, and did not return for the third.
The Blues went up 1-0 at 8:38 of the first period after a review. Steen was open in front, and when Chris Kreider slid to knock the puck away, it deflected off Steen's right skate and through Lundqvist's pads. The review determined that there was no distinct kicking motion.
"On the first one,'' Lundqvist said, "I go for his [Steen's] stick and instead it hits his foot."
With the lead, the Blues were content to play the body and clear pucks to force the Rangers to come 200 feet to attack, and Jaroslav Halak covered every loose puck.
The Rangers tied the score when Derek Stepan, from behind the net, set up Nash for a low one-timer from the left circle that zipped past Halak's glove. Ryan McDonagh intercepted a pass in the neutral zone to start the sequence.
But after the Rangers, who had only seven shots in the third, were unable to score early in the period on 1:47 of a carry-over power play, Nash slashed Shattenkirk. He was in the box for only nine seconds when Shattenkirk, who is from New Rochelle and was playing his first NHL game at the Garden, netted his eighth goal of the season.
The Rangers went on the power play with 7:29 left in the third but were held in check.
"Give credit to their penalty kill," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We didn't establish our shot . . . Right off the draw [on Shattenkirk's goal], they established a shot. They take it, they score."