Without Ryan Callahan, Rangers shut down at home in 3-0 loss to Penguins

The Rangers skate off the ice after a The Rangers skate off the ice after a 3-0 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Jan. 31, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Brad Richards called last night's 3-0 loss to the Penguins at the Garden "sloppy." Coach John Tortorella was more critical: "Probably our worst game of the year collectively."

Descriptions aside, the Rangers, who had won three straight at home, fell to 3-4 and appeared to miss captain Ryan Callahan more than anything.

Callahan, who creates intensity by example, was sidelined for the first time this season with a dislocated shoulder. He wasn't positioned in front during the 0-for-4 power play after scoring two of the team's three goals in 28 opportunities. He wasn't on the penalty-kill either, and the Penguins (4-3) got a big power-play goal early in the third period.

"He's a big-time leader, but at the same time, we can't put this on one player," Ryan McDonagh said. "We just didn't play with the same aggressive mind-set. He brings it every night."

Throw in seven penalties, including the third straight game with a too-many-men infraction that resulted in a Pittsburgh power-play goal. It was reminiscent of last season, when the inability to score at key times clarified the need for a game-changer such as Rick Nash.

When the summer trade with Columbus was made, all eyes were on Nash as a potential difference-maker. While he has shown his considerable skills as a passer and some unexpected physical play -- Tortorella called him "the real deal" -- he has one goal in seven games.

To be fair, Nash hasn't had much help. The Rangers could not generate enough quality scoring chances against Tomas Vokoun (28 saves), who won for the second time in 11 days at Madison Square Garden.

"We still have a lot of things to work on, but we weren't even close tonight," Tortorella said.

The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin fired top shelf to beat Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves) on the short side at 1:24 of the first period. Malkin later used his stick on Marc Staal's helmet. "Tomahawked" said Staal, who jumped Malkin afterward.

There would be no other goals, but plenty of penalties -- six for the Rangers, four for Pittsburgh -- until the 28-second mark of the third period. On a power play that carried over, after the Rangers had seven men on the ice, James Neal, with his back to the play, deflected Sidney Crosby's shot off the crossbar and in.

The Rangers did come close late. Staal's point blast hit the post and the Rangers went on a power play when Simon Despres went off for holding Carl Hagelin at 8:14. Staal hit the iron again, but the rebound went from Craig Adams to Pascal Dupuis on the left side, and he found Despres coming out of the box for a breakaway. He deked and lifted in a backhander for a 3-0 lead at 10:23.

About the only thing that stirred the crowd, which began filing out after the third goal, was some roughing up of Crosby. Michael Del Zotto crunched Crosby face-first into the glass in the first period. In the second, during a four-on-four, Dan Girardi nudged Crosby after a save by Lundqvist and Crosby came back at him. Girardi knocked him down and went off for roughing. The Rangers killed 1:32 of a four-on-three, but the cheering pretty much ended there.

You also may be interested in: