Marian Gaborik is struggling with his confidence and mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, with no goals in eight games and one in 10.
Displeased with his star's performance, Rangers coach John Tortorella sent a message by limiting Gaborik to 2:25 in the second period and 12:45 overall in Sunday night's 3-2 loss to the Flyers, with only Kris Newbury, Sean Avery, Chris Drury and Ruslan Fedotenko playing fewer minutes among the forwards.
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Tortorella said there were no physical issues with the team's leading scorer from last season. "It's just . . . we need production from him,'' he said. "We've got guys grinding their -- off developing scoring chances; we need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us. Some guys just need to score a goal to gain some confidence."
It was the second straight loss for the Rangers (26-18-3), who have scored 13 goals in the last nine games.
Trailing 3-0, Wolski scored his second goal as a Ranger when Brian Boucher let a seemingly harmless sharp-angle shot to his right slip between his pads at 9:13. Then Zuccarello (two assists) set up Stepan for his 13th at 11:37. Martin Biron (24 saves) was pulled with 1:41 to go, but the Rangers couldn't tie it.
"We can't spot them a 3-0 lead and expect to win," said Brandon Dubinsky, who missed a half-open net with less than five minutes to play and later said, "I need to start burying my chances."
The power play is not helping at all. Another 0-for-3 left the Rangers on a dismal 2-for-32 skid with the man advantage.
"We are trying to be too cute," said Stepan, who got the puck poked off his stick on the power play, a turnover that led to Mike Richards converting a saucer pass from Claude Giroux over a sliding Steve Eminger at 4:25 of the second. It was the fourth shorthander allowed by the Rangers. "I'm definitely not happy about it. I made a mistake and it ends up in the back of the net."
In the first, the Rangers killed two power plays, but the Flyers scored shortly after each ended.
The Rangers put 19 of their 38 shots on Boucher in the second period and also lashed out in frustration.
At 8:32, Brandon Prust started shoving with Darrell Powe, Matt Walker stepped in along the boards and Newbury belted him from behind. Avery dropped Carle (in the Flyer's first NHL fight) with a right to the face and threw several punches while the defenseman was on the ice.
"The gloves were off,'' Avery said. "It was a scrum. I didn't even know who I had."