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Rangers' offense sputters again in 4-1 loss to Blues

ST. LOUIS - Leading scorer Marian Gaborik has no goals in five games. Vinny Prospal's timing isn't back after knee surgery cost him two weeks. Erik Christensen, Ryan Callahan and the rest of the first three lines aren't contributing.

The Rangers have five goals in the last five games - including one in last night's 4-1 loss to the Blues - and with the sagging offense, rookie goaltender Chad Johnson and No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist have had little margin for error.

In his second NHL start, Johnson's error in the third period proved costly. With the Blues leading 2-1, Alex Steen began a rush in center ice, circled the net and, from a sharp angle, banked the puck off Johnson's arm at 8:31 as the goalie couldn't get to the right post in time.

"I overplayed him," Johnson said. "I anticipated that he was going to shoot. You can't let in goals like that. It's unacceptable."

That gave the Blues a 3-1 lead and pretty much secured the Rangers' third consecutive loss. David Backes added an empty-netter with 12.1 seconds remaining.

"He's a kid we have in there," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Johnson. "I'm not going to whine about it. I thought he fought some rebounds along the way. But he played his second pro game with a team that has struggled to support some goalies on the way."

On the Blues' first goal, on one of three power plays in the first period, Keith Tkachuk fed David Perron, who scored his 13th of the season on a power-play wrister from the left circle at 14:07.

Brian Boyle scored his fourth goal to tie it at 7:37 of the second, but it was all Blues in the third. Defenseman Roman Polak's low slap shot deflected off Dan Girardi's skate to break a 1-1 tie with 45 seconds gone in the period.

The Rangers have relied heavily on Gaborik, and Tortorella said: "I think he's fighting it, period. I think it's affecting his whole game. When he turned the puck over [on the second goal], I thought after that, he started finishing his checks and that was the best part of his game. He's been a key component offensively and defensively. I think he'll get it back."

Callahan thought Boyle's goal, which came after Aaron Voros' check freed the puck for Boyle to step out from behind the net and slide a backhander past Chris Mason, was the type the Rangers need to get untracked. It ended a week-long scoreless drought of 172 minutes that began after Christensen scored in Boston in the third period.

"I thought we went to the net better, but we're squeezing the sticks, myself included," Callahan said. "I had a good chance by myself in the first."

The power play, 0-for-2 last night and 3-for-40, is a concern, too. Adding Chris Drury to the point with Ales Kotalik scratched didn't add much, although an on-target pass to an open Gaborik came to naught when the Slovak winger misfired.

"We've got to get our top guys going and hope other guys chip in," Tortorella said. He'll tinker with the lines yet again, possibly putting Brandon Dubinsky on the left side of Gaborik and Prospal, when the Rangers (22-19-7) host Montreal Sunday night at the Garden.

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