After a troubling 4-1 loss to the Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Rangers lowered the boom on themselves in a closed-door meeting, and outside the room, coach Alain Vigneault ripped the team's willingness to battle.
"Without a doubt, our compete level is a .500 compete level," Vigneault said, which reflects the team's 15-15-1 record. "When the other team scores a goal, we don't seem to have much of a push."
Actually, goals by Jason Chimera and Steve Oleksy 25 seconds apart early in the second period was all Washington needed to send the Rangers to their second straight loss. In the second game of a season-high nine-game homestand, the Rangers scored a goal or fewer for the 11th time this season and didn't put up much of a fight after the first 20 minutes.
"We are just floating along and it's getting old," Brad Richards said. He called the way the Rangers are playing "obviously way too comfortable."
Dan Girardi said some things need to be aired out and pinpointed one topic. "It's got to be more desperation," Girardi said after the Rangers fell to 5-7-1 at the Garden. "We've got to have second- and third-effort plays, especially at home here. We can't be stinking up the place . . . We need to find some serious consistency or we're going to be clawing for the last playoff spot. We need to find a way to be a hard team to play against."
On Sunday night, they didn't make it very difficult for Philipp Grubauer, who made 30 saves and earned his first win in his fourth NHL game. With the Rangers down 4-0, Benoit Pouliot's goal with 1:53 left was perfunctory.
Playing without Marc Staal (possible concussion), Derek Dorsett (wrist) and Dominic Moore (healthy scratch), the Rangers seemed to be on the ropes after the two goals. And when Mikhail Grabovski blasted home a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh was whistled for hooking, the disgruntled crowd could sense the nail being put in the coffin.
"I didn't really touch him much, and he still gets a shot away, but that's just one part of the game," McDonagh said. "There's a lot more we could have controlled. You forget how hard you have to work and how hard you have to prepare."
Henrik Lundqvist (32 saves), who is 9-12-1, can't solely be blamed for this one. In one sequence in the second, he stopped both Chimera (on a deflection) and Joel Ward (on a rebound) on a shorthanded odd-man rush.
Rick Nash, Richards, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, ostensibly the top weapons, didn't hit the scoresheet. The point streaks of Richards and McDonagh ended at six games.
Vigneault, whose club hosts the Predators on Tuesday, hinted at roster changes. "With the personnel we have right now, we need to play a smart, high-percentage, good-puck-movement game," he said. "You can talk all you want behind closed doors. It's on the 200-by-85 [rink] that things are decided."
Notes & quotes: Staal, who has a concussion history, is being monitored after taking a high hit Saturday from the Devils' Reid Boucher. "We're not sure whether the symptoms are caused by the neck issues from the hit," Vigneault said. "We're taking every precaution."