The Barclays Center hex continues. The Rangers’ 4-2 loss Tuesday night on Atlantic Avenue made them 0-for-3 at the home of the Islanders, including two last season.
And before the seven-minute mark of the second period, the Blueshirts were down to 10 forwards, with Rick Nash out for the game with a groin injury at 6:38 and Matt Puempel (concussion) not returning after the first.
There was no immediate timetable for a return for Nash, who has 11 goals, said coach Alain Vigneault, nor for Puempel, who was decked on a high stick from Brock Nelson.
Puempel lay face down on the ice and looked dazed as he skated off. Nelson drew a four-minute penalty. Vigneault declined comment, saying he would let the league decide if further punishment was warranted.
“We were short a couple bodies, but that’s no excuse,” Vig neault said. “You’ve got to find ways. We battled hard, but weren’t able to finish when we had the opportunities.”
That’s been a theme for the Rangers at Barclays.
Marc Staal’s goal at 8:54 of the second was his second of only four for the Rangers in three visits here. Jimmy Vesey’s rebound of Nash’s shot 56 seconds into the second period was the fourth.
The Isles won the special-teams battle: Behind goalie Jaroslav Halak, they foiled 9:26 of power plays, yielding nothing for the Rangers, including the four minutes in the box for Nelson. John Tavares salted the game away with a power-play goal at 11:13 of the third.
“Even though we didn’t get on the board, we had tons of chances,” J.T. Miller said. “Special teams was the difference.”
With 38 shots on Halak, Miller called it “frustrating when you’re so close.”
It was a tough night for the Rangers’ third defensive pair, Brady Skjei and Kevin Klein, who were on ice together for two of the first three goals. Skjei froze on the first goal and was shoved over by Jason Chimera on the second. Klein was tangled up with Henrik Lundqvist after a poor poke check on the third, which proved to be the game-winner.
The Rangers are only 4-5-1 in the last 10 games, and they’ll be missing two more forwards entering a back-to-back in Winnipeg and Chicago tomorrow and Friday. They are expected to call up at least one forward from Hartford tomorrow.
“Every team you play now is going to raise their level,” said Lundqvist, who allowed two goals on the first nine shots. “Early on [in the season], a lot of things were working for us, but I think it’s important for us not to look for any excuses. We just have to dig a little deeper. You need a lot from everyone to win in this league, including myself.”