Call it a forgettable weekend for the Rangers -- back-to-back losses filled with potholes like New York's roads this winter, and with them, a sense that the race for a playoff berth could go down to the wire in April.
After falling to the Bruins, 6-3, last night at Madison Square Garden a day after losing to the Flyers, 4-2, in Philadelphia, the Rangers remained at 69 points. They slipped to third place in the Metropolitan Division and seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the Flyers and only one point clear of the playoff line.
Boston's Tuukka Rask made 19 saves in the first period and 39 overall. The deep Bruins, who win battles in front of both nets with regularity, are "an elite team," in Rangers coach Alain Vigneault's words. They have won all three games against the Blueshirts this season.
"It seems like we're having lapses," captain Ryan Callahan said. "Teams are capitalizing on us when we have those. We've got to get that next one [against Toronto on Wednesday]."
The Rangers might be distracted by the lingering negotiations between Callahan and the front office, which could come to a head by Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline. Without an agreement, Callahan, a pending unrestricted free agent, could be dealt.
"It's been on my mind, there's no secret," said Callahan, who said he did not view the game as his last with the team that drafted him in 2004. "I want to be here and I just try to focus on doing what I can for the team."
In the first period, the Rangers came out of the gate with speed and intensity but managed only J.T. Miller's stick-side, forehand finish off a breakaway at 3:20.
Although the Rangers held a 14-1 edge in shots, the Bruins found their legs, and Jarome Iginla crashed the crease behind Ryan McDonagh and redirected a pass from David Krejci at 18:07 for a 1-1 tie.
"I thought Rask played one of the best first periods a goaltender has played against us," Vigneault said.
In the second and third, breakdowns cost the Rangers. The Bruins built a 3-1 lead on goals by Dougie Hamilton (the trailer on a rush) at 4:04 and Carl Soderberg (left untouched in front) at 9:34.
Brad Richards snapped his 16th over Rask's right shoulder at 16:53 to cut the lead to one. Trailing 3-2 in the third, the Rangers had their third power play, but seconds after Callahan hit the post, Richards got lost in the defensive zone and Gregory Campbell stuck in the dagger with a shorthanded goal at 9:04.
"I can't make that [wrong] read," Richards said. "It's the game there."
Campbell's second goal came when Daniel Paille's shot went off his skate. McDonagh and Milan Lucic traded scores in the final minutes.
"We've got to tighten up for sure," Richards said. "We've got to keep it down, two goals or less."
Lundqvist, who hadn't surrendered six goals since Oct. 10 in Anaheim, called it "extremely painful . . . When you give up six, it's not good enough, but thinking of the goals, it's some tough plays.''
And a tough stretch coming up for the Rangers, who play nine games on the road in March before they get to spring.