After Game 4, there was talk of redemption. After Game 5, there's talk of regression.
Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis had been loudly quiet for the Rangers' offense in the first 15 games of the playoffs, but after scoring three goals between them in the Game 4 rout Friday, there was hope that there would be more production around the corner. But that wasn't the case in a 2-0 loss Sunday night, in which the offense fizzled and St. Louis, in particular, missed multiple chances in the first period and paced a teamwide fit of impotence.
"It doesn't matter, I think, if you're a first-year professional or a 15-year professional," coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. "If you're having issues in an area, it affects your overall ability . . . He's finding other ways to contribute."
In the opening minutes of the first period, St. Louis couldn't corral a bouncing puck that would have put him all alone with goalie Ben Bishop. A few minutes later, he streaked toward the crease, shifting the puck from his backhand to his forehand, which weakened his shot and made for an easy save.
"He was working extremely hard being the leader that he's supposed to be," Vigneault said, "but at the end of the day, we know he can score goals. It's just a matter of doing it."
In truth, it's too easy to place the blame on St. Louis' shoulders -- he's already been benched this series and he's been taken off the top line. And the Rangers' offensive woes Sunday night were not all St. Louis' fault, or even Nash's. It was a teamwide epidemic.
The team managed three shots on their first power-play opportunity and then just two total over the next three. They had only 16 shots through two periods (the Lightning had only 15 but made the best of them, scoring twice) and had 26 total.
The Rangers also suffered through a shotless stretch that began at 10:49 of the first period and lasted until Keith Yandle's wrister 48 seconds into the second period. Nash, who had 69 points in the regular season with a team-high 42 goals, managed five shots Sunday night, despite 21:08 of ice time.
Perhaps most ominous: Nash's five shots led the team.