DALLAS — With the Rangers fielding a lineup without five regulars, Job 1 on Monday night was simple: Compete, compete, compete.
Having lost five of the previous six games and fallen to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division — and with the very real specter of a Rick Nash trade hovering — the Rangers competed at American Airlines Center, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 2-1 loss to the Stars. It was their ninth defeat in the past 12 games.
With the score 1-1 and the Rangers shorthanded, Martin Hanzal tipped down Julius Honka’s high wrister from the point past Henrik Lundqvist at 4:05 of the third period. “I think it was going wide and their guy was able to tip it,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt it’s hard right now.”
The Rangers (25-23-5) fell to 8-14-2 on the road, far different from last season’s 27-12-2. The Stars are 31-19-4.
The Blueshirts had to kill two penalties in the first period and the Stars unloaded on Lundqvist (39 saves), who was very sharp in turning away all 21 shots in the first 20 minutes. His teammates blocked another 14 attempts.
The Rangers left the ice with a 1-0 lead. Vinni Lettieri’s long shot was stopped by goalie Ben Bishop, but David Desharnais netted the rebound at 17:55. It was his sixth goal and first since Jan. 21.
The Stars could have had four or five goals in the second period if not for Lundqvist. Dallas took advantage of a delayed penalty and tied the score at 1 when Tyler Seguin’s one-timer blazed by Lundqvist and went off the post and in with 5:16 left in the period.
“The difference was special teams,” Lundqvist said. “It’s hard for us to get wins. We can’t take too many penalties. That’s a fact. We’re getting their best players on the ice and also, we’re keeping our best guys off the ice.
“I like the effort we put in for 45 minutes. In this league, I’d take working hard for the team over skill any day. We don’t have room for anything else.”
Said Brady Skjei, “Frustration’s high. Every game is so important. We have to really bear down and play the best hockey we can.”