PITTSBURGH -- The image is all you need to know about the plight of the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist's broken stick lay near his equipment in the silent, nearly vacant locker room after their third loss in a row, a 3-0 shutout Saturday by the blazing Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I hope we understand right now the importance of every game," said Lundqvist, who seemed particularly bitter. "If we want to be in the playoffs, we have to turn this around."
Defenseman Dan Girardi was more direct, saying it is time for a "gut check."
With just 21 games to play, the Rangers are below the playoff cutoff line, and have scored the fewest goals in the East.
The four-game road trip began well, with a 4-1 victory in Washington. But it deteriorated with 3-1 losses in Buffalo and Winnipeg and then the 23-save shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury.
In a game in which Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Chris Kunitz, three of the NHL's top point-getters, were kept off the scoresheet, the Rangers couldn't shake their funk. Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis scored within 43 seconds in the third to put a 1-0 game out of reach.
"We have to find a way to score," Ryan Callahan said. "It's magnified more in a 48-game season. When you go through these stretches in an 82-game season, you have time to work it out, but now you have to fix it as soon as possible."
Nash, felled in the first minute by Mark Eaton's point shot that struck his right knee, said afterward that he was fine, but he hasn't notched a point in three games. Same numbers for Richards, whose neutral-zone turnover led to the goal by Dupuis. Gaborik has one goal in his last 14 games.
The Penguins (21-8-0), who have won eight straight, and seven consecutive matchups with the Rangers, came out flying. "The difference between the two teams in the first period couldn't be more obvious," Lundqvist said. "It's painful."
The Rangers (4-7-1 on the road) were "in mud," Tortorella said.
At 1:30, Beau Bennett caught up to a puck that got past Roman Hamrlik in the right circle and hammered a shot over Lundqvist's right shoulder. It was the ninth straight game against the Rangers that the Penguins have scored first.
The Rangers' first even-strength shot in the first period, by Hagelin, came with 3:08 left. The Penguins had 13 shots, 11 attempts blocked, nine misses; the Rangers had four shots and five blocked. The Rangers recovered in the second, controlling the puck more, but still trailed.
In the third, Anton Stralman tripped Kennedy, and the Penguins patiently passed the puck until Kennedy fired a shot off Steve Eminger's skate and into the top corner at 4:55. At 7:17, Dupuis' backhander on an odd-man rush made it 3-0.
"Enough with excuses," Lundqvist said. "I have to do what I can to be better. Whatever we do in front of me is out of my control."