Well, at 10:36 this morning (you can look it up), I wrote that the trap was set. If you follow this team, you could see it coming, as vividly and as dangerously as a runaway truck barreling down a street.

                 An emotional game against New Jersey.

                 Flat-lining the next one.

                 It's not the first time, and unless fixed, it will end this group's season early.

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           The name on the back of the jersey read “Brodeur”. The Rangers fell under the spell and never woke up.
           Mike Brodeur, the third-string goalie for the Ottawa Senators and a distant cousin of Devils veteran Martin Brodeur, who had topped 51 shots and four in the shootout in the 1-0 loss on Tuesday at the Garden, made 32 saves and blanked the Blueshirts 2-0 in his second NHL start.
                   The Senators snapped a five-game winless streak when Chris Campoli, left alone to Henrik Lundqvist’s right, scored off a pass from Alex Kovalev with 1:14 left in the third period, a goal that prompted Lundqvist to slam his stick on the crossbar. Chris Kelly scored into an empty net with 10.7 left.                 
                Rangers coach John Tortorella had repeatedly warned his team about a letdown, but apparently wasn’t forceful enough. "I guess they weren’t listening,” he said.
                 At several points this season, Tortorella has been mystified by this team’s lack of consistent effort and was stumped again.
                 “I don’t understand,” he said. “It’s a team we’re fighting against for a playoff spot and got spanked the game before. We tried to guard against it…That team wanted to play harder than we did tonight. We deserve what we got. They simply worked harder. We stunk tonight, which is unacceptable.”
                 With the win, the depleted Senators (23-21-4), missing injured stars Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, moved to within a point of the Rangers for sixth place in the East as the Blueshirts (22-18-7) lost in regulation for just the second time in 14 games
               Leading scorer Marian Gaborik, with one goal in his last six games, was also frustrated by his defensive lapse on Campoli's goal. "It was (Kovalev) my guy. I should have been closer to him. It was my mistake...It cost us the game."
                Even the return of Vinny Prospal, who missed seven games following arthroscopic knee surgery, didn’t help the Rangers avoid being shut out for 144: 23 plus, with the last goal coming against Boston on Saturday. The Rangers have scored just four goals in four games.  
               The younger Brodeur, who stopped 22 of 23 shots in beating Minnesota on Dec. 19, was summoned from Binghamton when Pascal Lecalire was injured in practice and Brian Elliot came down with an illness. He absorbed most of the Rangers’ 32 chances allowing few rebounds.
              “It can’t be just the coaches yelling at us (after the first period),” said Prospal. “I thought we were going to be ready to play right from the start. The same thing happened at the beginning of the second period. It’s got to be within the group here. You can’t just play with high emotion the game before and come out basically flat. We weren’t hungry enough.”
                “I’m so mad right now,” said Lundqvist, who made 32 saves and is being asked to be perfect night after night. He said he lost track of the puck on a screen on Campoli’s game-winner.
                 Despite extra practice with the man-advantage on Wednesday, the Rangers power-play failed to score twice, pushing their futility ratio to 3 for 38 and the boos sprinkled down.
               Unlike the fast-paced thriller against the Devils, the Rangers were on their heels early. The first time out came at 4:46. Tortorella had seen enough. On the previous play, Erik Christensen,  Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival all headed to the boards and the puck bounced behind the net to the left post where Kovalev had three whacks at the puck and Lundqvist’s outstretched left pad before someone touched him.
                “It’s frustrating for everybody,” said Lundqvist. “But if you don’t score, you don’t win.”
 

  
Quotables
 
            Ryan Callahan: "I know personally it makes me angry. You can't have a start like that because then you have another game where you don't put up a goal."
 
               Ottawa coach Cory Clouston: "We had six or seven good chances in the first period, hit a couple posts. Mike (Brodeur) was outstanding. That was the biggest difference tonight. We didn't have the early deficit to erase." 
 
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             Donald Brashear, who was signed to a two-year, $2.8-million deal in July, has been a shadow of his former self.
             In his 17th season, the burly Brashear has one assist and is a minus-8 in 35 games. Not that anyone expected Brashear to score, but the problem has been his role. Exactly what is it?
             Brashear, from early on a target of Garden fans who recall his blindside hit that broke bones in center Blair Betts’ face in the playoffs against the Capitals last season, missed nine games with hand and rib injuries, had shied away from scraps and now can’t win a decision when he drops the gloves.
            Last night, Brashear played 4:30 in his sixth straight game on the fourth line, while Enver Lisin and Aaron Voros were healthy scratches. He squared off twice in the first period with Matt Carkner.
             The 6-foot-4 Carkner, who is eight years younger, engaged Brashear in a wrestling match along the boards at 3:23. At 11:44, he knocked off Carkner’s helmet with three left jabs, but Carkner’s right sent him down. “He was just holding on,” said Carkner. Neither bout seemed to spark Brashear’s teammates.
 
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               The Rangers are 10-11-4 at home…With one penalty kill, the Rangers are on a 21-for-21 streak...Lundqvist had stopped 81 consecutive shots before Campoli's goal.
 
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                 Rookie Chad Johnson, who stopped three of 20 shots in relief at the Garden in the 6-0 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 30, and started in Atlanta, will start at home at some point, said Tortorella, “but I don’t think in the near future.”