When the Rangers needed a wall, there was a crack. When the Rangers needed a goal, there was no decisive shot. And when the Rangers needed points in a home game, they came up empty.
Last night's 4-3 loss in regulation to the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden - their second game in a row without grabbing a point - was significantly damaging for their fading playoff hopes. They failed to take advantage of a Bruins loss to Pittsburgh and remained three points behind Boston heading into Sunday's matinee showdown at TD BankNorth Garden.
Wasted in the defeat was a three-point night by Marian Gaborik, who had a goal and two assists, his eighth three-point night of the season.
"The third goal was a bad one," said Lundqvist, who fought the puck all night. "The rest were tough but . . . I feel like I have to play better. I gave up some bad rebounds."
Rebounds aside, Lundqvist faltered on the first and second goals as well.
Brad Boyes grabbed a loose puck and beat Lundqvist high glove side on the first shot of the night at 1:10 of the first period to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.
Ryan Callahan tipped Olli Jokinen's slap shot from the point for a power-play goal at 5:52 and Gaborik's shot that deflected off Carlo Colaiacovo's stick blade and past Ty Conklin gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 17:08.
But on the first shot of the second period, Mike Weaver's long wrister eluded Lundqvist for his first goal in 185 games. With Wade Redden in the box, Johnson's end-to-end rush was rewarded when he threw the puck on net and it slipped through Lundqvist's skates at 5:45.
The air came out of the Garden.
"He's made a lot of big saves for us this year," Chris Drury said. "He's our guy and we certainly believe in him."
The Rangers gave their fans some hope when Redden's slap shot from above the left circle through a screen zipped by Conklin at 7:11 of the third. But that tie didn't last long either. T. J. Oshie's centering pass to Paul Kariya, who was driving the net, was batted past Lundqvist to restore the one-goal lead at 8:24.
The Blues finished with only 16 shots on Lundqvist.
"It's just tough," Callahan said. "We scored in the third to tie it up and then unfortunately I lost my man on that [fourth] goal and I've gotta have him. We were battling for position as he was going to the net and I lost my balance. ''
That aside, this clearly was a game of missed opportunities.
With the score 3-2, another turning point was the Rangers' inability to connect on a five-on-three for 1:17 early in the third period.
"Any time we lose this time of the year, it's frustrating," Callahan said. "especially when the Bruins lose. Right now you want to focus on yourself, but it's two points we lost."