Even the return of Brandon Dubinsky wasn't enough for the Rangers to secure two points. Or more than two goals.
"He gave us some juice, didn't he?" coach John Tortorella said. Sure. But the 23-year-old center, who missed 13 games with a broken right hand, couldn't help the Rangers avoid a fourth straight defeat, a 3-2 shootout loss to Atlanta last night at the Garden.
It took an outstanding effort by Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg to derail the Rangers, who had a season-high 48 shots and scored twice on power plays.
"If we had only 20 shots, it'd be worrisome," said Dubinsky, who reported no problems with his stamina or his right hand, which was covered by a plastic casing. "But [a win has] gotta come soon."
The question is, when?
For the 16th time in 20 games, the Rangers (14-15-3) scored two or fewer goals, but it was not for lack of effort.
"We really stressed crashing the net, getting pucks at the net and getting rebounds," said Ryan Callahan, who scored his third goal in five games. He had five shots and six hits on a new line with Vinny Prospal (six shots) and Chris Drury, who won 16 of 26 faceoffs.
"You look at the other night [against Buffalo]," Tortorella said. "We have 38, 39 shots and we certainly didn't develop as many chances as we did tonight. I think that's from going to the net . . . We bounced back after a shorthanded goal. I have no complaints."
If Tortorella could rethink that statement, he might've faulted his club for the second shorthander surrendered in two games, a goal that prompted his shouted expletive from the bench.
Or he might have critiqued Ales Kotalik, who lost the puck and didn't get a shot off in the second round of the shootout with the Rangers behind 1-0 on a highlight-reel score by Ilya Kovalchuk, who deked Henrik Lundqvist to his stomach and roofed a shot. Slava Kozlov's wrister sealed the win.
"I think everybody is mad," said Lundqvist, who made 25 saves and will start against the Islanders in the first game of a home-and-home at the Garden Wednesday. "The only thing you can do is try to use it as energy coming into the [next] game."
There certainly were other pluses among the frustration:
After a 1-for-16 stretch, the Rangers have four power-play goals in the last two games.
Marian Gaborik, who played 28:19, scored his league-leading 23rd goal and 11th on the power play at 4:05 of the third period. That goal came only 59 seconds after a shorthanded goal by Colby Armstrong, who took the puck off a long dump-in that curled around the end boards and beat Lundqvist for a 2-1 lead.
Michael Del Zotto got two assists, one on a brilliant goal-line- to-opposing-blue-line pass to Callahan, who scored his seventh of the season at 17:10 of the first period to tie it at 1. "You have to give the kid some credit, how he sees the plays," Tortorella said. "What's impressive about him is that he's so decisive."
And with the score tied at 2, the Rangers earned a point by surviving a five-on-three for 1:26 deep in the third.
"That is a big reason we end up getting a point," Tortorella said. "In all facets of the game, there are some things we can build on."