Was that a tolling of the bells in the distance?
 
                       When the Rangers needed a wall, there was a crack. When the Rangers needed a goal, there was no decisive shot. And when the Rangers needed points in a home game, they came up empty.
 
                         Tonight’s 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden---their second game in a row without grabbing a point---was significantly damaging for their fading playoff hopes. With 11 games to play, they failed to take advantage of a Bruins loss to Pittsburgh and remain three points behind eighth place Boston going into Sunday’s matinee showdown in TD BankNorth Garden.
 
                       And with Atlanta’s defeat of Ottawa, the Thrashers tied the Rangers for ninth place in points with 71 and are technically in 10th because although they have more wins, the Thrashers have a game in hand.
                         
                       Henrik Lundqvist, in one of his weakest moments of the season, allowed Erik Johnson’s long shot to trickle through his pads and give the Blues a 3-2 lead in the second period.
 
                      “The third goal was a bad one,” said Lundqvist, who fought the puck all night. “The rest were tough, but…the bottom line is I have to play better. I gave up some bad rebounds.”  
                          Rebounds aside, Lundqvist faltered on the first and second goals as well.
 
                         Brad Boyes grabbed a loose puck and beat Lundqvist high glove side on the first shot of the night at 1:10 to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. Ryan Callahan tipped Olli Jokinen's slap shot from the point for a power play goal at 5:52 and Marian Gaborik’s shot that deflected off Carlo Coliacovo’s stick blade and past ty Conklin gave the Rangers a 2-1edge at 17:08 of the first. 
 
                            But on the first shot of the second period, Mike Weaver’s long wrister, his first goal in 185 games, eluded Lundqvist and with Wade Redden in the box, Johnson’s end to end rush was rewarded when he threw the puck on net and it slipped through Lundqvist’s skates at 5:45. the air came out of the Garden.
 
                           “He’s made a lot of big saves for us this year,” said Chris Drury. “He’s our guy and we certainly all believe in him.” The Rangers gave the fans something to believe when Wade Redden’s slap shot from above the left circle through a screen that zipped by Conklin at 7:11 of the third. But that tie didn’t last long either.
 
                            T. J. Oshie’s centering pass to Paul Kariya, who was driving the net, was batted past Lundqvist to restore the one goal lead at 8:24.  The Blues finished with just 16 shots on Lundqvist and wasted in the defeat was a three-point night by Marian Gaborik, with a goal and two assists, his eighth three-point game of the year.
 
                            “It’s just tough,” said Callahan. “We scored in the third to tie it up and then unfortunately I lost my man on that (fourth) goal and I’ve gotta have him. We were battling for position as he was going to the net and I lost my balance. ’’                            
                          That aside, this was clearly a game of missed opportunities. With the score 3-2, another turning point was the Blueshirts inability to connect on a 5-on-3 for 1:17 early in the third period.
                       
                       “Anytime we lose this time of the year, it’s frustrating,” said Callahan.  “especially when the Bruins lose. Right now you want to focus on yourself but it’s two points we could have used.”

****

                          Some extra quotes:

                        "We were crashing the net, we had a lot of opportunities," said Callahan. If we can bring that into Boston right off the start I think we'll be good."

                       Brandon Dubinsky: The Bruins loss "just makes the game against them in Boston on Sunday more important and gives us a chance."

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                        John Tortorella: "I still thought we tried---that was the biggest thing---when they scored the third goal. We didn;t want to panic. We were trying our long passes and we were a little bit individual but I thought we gathered ourselves." 

                      Lundqvist: "Coming into the game. we talked about getting a good start and it's so important to us and right away, they score on their first shot.''

                     STATS: The Rangers (31-31-9) are a dreadful 15-17-6 at home, with three games left at the Garden in the regular season.....