The Rangers coach, looking a little more resigned nightly, says the troops tried, but in my mind, St. Louis has more skilled players and skaters throughout their lineup, which has reacted well to their new coach.
             So the Rangers barely avert another shutout. In October 1999, they were blanked for three consecutive games. Haven't seen this many empties since after that wild New Year's Eve party I attended in, well, 1999.
              Guess that's why they call it the blues....read on.
 
               ST. LOUIS---Leading scorer Marian Gaborik has no goals in five games. Vinny Prospal’s timing isn’t back after knee surgery cost him two weeks. Erik Christensen, Ryan Callahan and the rest of the first three lines aren’t contributing.  
                 The Rangers have five goals in the last five games, including one in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Blues---and with the sagging offense, rookie goaltender Chad Johnson---like No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist, has little margin for error.
                 In his second NHL start, Johnson’s error in the third period proved costly.
                  With the Blues leading 2-1, Johnson couldn’t get to the left post in time after Alex Steen began a rush in center ice, circled the net and from a sharp angle, banked the puck off Johnson’s arm at 8:31 of the third period. That gave the Blues a 3-1 lead and pretty much secured the Rangers’ third consecutive loss. Alex Steen added an empty-netter with 12.1 seconds remaining
                  “I overplayed him,” said Johnson, “I anticipated that he was going to shoot. You can’t let in goals like that. It’s unacceptable.”
                   The Blues’ first goal---on one of three power plays in the first period--- hit Marc Staal and Keith Tkachuk fed David Perron, who scored his 13th of the season on a power-play wrister from the left circle at 14:07. Defenseman Roman Polak’s low slap shot deflected off  Dan Girardi’s skate to break a 1-1 tie with 45 seconds gone in the third period.
                 “He’s a kid we have in there,” said Tortorella. “I’m not going to whine about it. I thought he fought some rebounds along the way. But he played his second pro game with a team that has struggled to support some goalies on the way.”
            The Rangers have relied heavily on Gaborik, and Tortorella declared: “I think he’s fighting it, period. I think it’s affecting his whole game. When he turned the puck over (on the second goal), I thought after that, he started finishing his checks and that was the best part of his game. He’s been a key component offensively and defensively. I think he’ll get it back.”
            Callahan thought that Brian Boyle’s goal, which came after Aaron Voros’ check freed the puck for Boyle to step out from behind the net and slide a backhander past Chris Mason to tie the game at 7:37 of the second period was the type the Rangers need to get untracked. It ended a week-long scoreless drought of 172 minutes, which began after Christensen scored in Boston in the third period.
                Now the Rangers are working on another as
Mason, who is 4-1-1 in his last six games, blanked them after Boyle’s third of the season.
             “I thought we went to the net better, but we’re squeezing the sticks, myself included,” said Callahan. “I had a good chance by myself in the first.” And the power play, 0-for-2 with no shots and now 3 for 40, is a concern. Adding Chris Drury to the point with Ales Kotalik scratched didn’t add much, although one of his passes to an open Gaborik failed when the Slovak winger misfired.
             “We’ve got to get our top guys going, and hope other guys chip in,” said Tortorella, who will tinker with the lines yet again, possibly putting Brandon Dubinsky on the left side of Gaborik and Prospal, when the Rangers (22-19-7) host Montreal tonight at the Garden.