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Rangers return to losing ways, falling to Sharks

Henrik Lundqvist reacts after surrendering a goal late

Henrik Lundqvist reacts after surrendering a goal late in the second period against the Sharks at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 23, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After they snapped a five-game winless streak against Nashville on Saturday, the recurring themes that have derailed the Rangers’ season emerged again in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday night at the Garden: an early goal, a goal that should have been stopped, an inexplicable inability to finish.

And the power play, which was sizzling at 5-for-16 in the first four games, has gone cold: 0-for-6, extending the futility to 3-for-25 and dropping the Rangers’ record to 2-6-2.

“This has been going on way too long,” Rick Nash said. “You can say all the cliches you want, but we’ve got to give ourselves a chance to win the games. It seems like we always shoot ourselves in the foot. ”

The Rangers again fell behind quickly. J.T. Miller was whistled for high-sticking, but the Sharks held possession. Seconds later, Logan Couture’s shot hit a defender and eluded Henrik Lundqvist at 1:56.

The Rangers had more shots in the period (16) than they had in the entire Predators game, but Lundqvist didn’t help his teammates this time. Tim Heed’s stoppable wrister from the lower right circle found the gap in his pads at the left post for a 2-0 lead at 12:45.

Even though his left leg twisted when Joonas Donskoi tripped over it after his goal at 19:22 of the second period, Lundqvist stayed for the third period. He had the puck stolen behind the cage by Couture, whose feed to Melker Karlsson made it 4-0 at 2:51.

“It was just a game where too many bad things happened,” Lundqvist said. “I made a bad read on the second goal and the third. We’re not in a place where we want to be.”

Mika Zibanejad, scoreless in five games, snapped in his sixth of the season to end a shutout by Martin Jones (33 saves) at 4:23.

Coach Alain Vigneault, clearly disappointed by the first 10 games, said afterward: “We had close to 20 scoring chances, and we got one goal. It’s not one guy; everybody in that room has got to be better than they are right now. Our inability to find the back of the net is hurting us.”

For the fifth time, the Rangers used 11 forwards and seven defensemen rather than the standard 12/6. In that format, they are 2-2-1, and it underscores the problem with only three reliable centers.

Management is still weighing how to fix the gap in the middle. A call-up of a center in Hartford — Cristoval Nieves, Vinny Lettieri and Filip Chytil — is possible. “It’s not the ideal situation, obviously,” Vigneault said, “Jeff [Gorton, the general manager] and I are going to talk about it.”

And if the Rangers needed any reminder of a missing piece, Derek Stepan, who was traded to Arizona, returns home for the first time Thursday.

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