Even the return of two injured players, Marc Staal and Ruslan Fedotenko, and 41 shots on goal could not shake the Rangers out of a tailspin that could spiral into another finish that culminates in watching the playoffs on television.
Sean Avery gave the Rangers an early lead, but the Minnesota Wild scored three consecutive goals for a 3-1 win Thursday nightat Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have a 14-16-3 home record, the fifth worst in the league.
The Rangers dropped into eighth place in the Eastern Conference as the Carolina Hurricanes took over seventh by a point with a 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo. The ninth-place Sabres are two points behind the Rangers and have three games in hand.
"It's definitely a challenge not to get frustrated," said Henrik Lundqvist, who faced only 19 shots. "It's not a good time to lose three at home."
The Ottawa Senators, who host the Rangers Friday night, have even fewer points than the Wild, but at this point, any team can give the Rangers (4-10-1 in the last 15) a run for their money.
In the first period, the Rangers held a 1-0 lead and had an 8-0 advantage in shots until Jared Spurgeon managed one on Lundqvist with 2:43 left. The Wild is used to this: Minnesota has been outshot in 57 of 65 games but won 31 of them.
Avery's goal, on a pass from Erik Christensen from behind goalie Jose Theodore at 3:13, was his third of the season. But two Rangers power plays created by gaffes by Theodore at 6:11 and Cal Clutterbuck at 14:04 (each for clearing the puck above the glass) looked as dismal as they had before Monday's arrival of Bryan McCabe and his fearsome slap shot from the point.
Ryan Callahan had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 at 14:58, but Theodore, falling backward and swiping his stick on the ice, made the save of the game at the doorstep.
"The most important part was after we get the one-goal lead, we have a couple power plays. We don't score," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "You can call it bad luck, you can call it whatever you want; we simply have to score some goals."
With Christensen off for high-sticking at 3:08 of the second, the Wild tied it. Kyle Brodziak, camped in front, deflected Spurgeon's right-point shot at 4:36. Casey Wellman beat Matt Gilroy to the left post to tip Brent Burns' pass and put the Rangers in a 2-1 hole at 12:36.
In the third, Pierre-Marc Bouchard beat Lundqvist from the left circle at 8:15. Then, for the fourth time in the game, the Rangers couldn't get a stick on loose pucks in front on the power play.
"We generated some chances; we just didn't find a way to bury it," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We have to have guys hang around the net a little more and get a bounce."
The Rangers suffered another injury when in the third period, Ryan McDonagh missed a check on Brodziak and spun into the center-ice boards.
Tortorella said the rookie defenseman wrenched his knee but that there did not appear to be structural damage.
The Rangers' psychological damage, on the other hand? With three straight losses at the Garden, that can't really be measured.