Amazingly, there are only nine regular-season games left for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Sixteen of the final 25 games in this truncated season are on the road, including the next four.
With a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators on a third-period goal Friday night, the Rangers not only lost an opportunity to extend a four-game winning streak but fumbled a chance to gain precious points at home.
"We played well for stretches, but not enough," Ryan Callahan said after the Rangers (12-9-2) couldn't find a way to score a third time against Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, who had 33 saves. "Especially at home, you've got to find a way to win that game. We had chances in the third that we need to convert."
The most critical chance came with the score tied when Lehner, 21 -- in his third game of the season and 18th of his career -- made an acrobatic blocker save to rob Derek Stepan in front on a behind-the-net feed from Marian Gaborik at 6:41.
"I came across and he had his blocker up -- I could shoot myself for it -- but it's a good save and a great pass," Stepan said. "He made a couple good saves before that, but that could be the [turning] point."
Coach John Tortorella said, "If he scores that, you never know where it goes."
Instead, the Senators found some energy and the Rangers, who defeated the Islanders in overtime Thursday night while the Senators rested, sagged. "I thought we were slow," Tortorella said, "then we couldn't defend and get clean out of our end. We weren't hard enough defensively under the hash marks."
With 4:41 left in regulation, Eric Gryba, who hit the crossbar earlier, fired a riser from the right point and Jakub Silfverberg slammed the rebound past Henrik Lundqvist. It was the only goal after four in the first, the first two by the Senators, who have six straight regular-season wins at the Garden.
"I don't know if we got tired or what," Lundqvist said. "They kept coming harder in the last 10 minutes."
The loss spoiled a successful return for Brad Richards, who missed the previous two games after a hit from behind by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta. He had a goal and six shots, and Rick Nash scored his team-leading ninth goal. Both came in the first period after the Senators took a 2-0 lead on Zach Smith's deflection at 6:10 and a power-play goal by Patrick Wiercioch at 10:50. Nash scored 13 seconds later to halve the lead.
"It was a long week watching," said Richards, who one-timed a drop pass from Carl Hagelin from the left circle over Lehner's glove at 17:39 for his first goal in 16 games.
Now the Rangers (3-4-1 on the road) have a long week of travel coming up.
Notes & quotes: Brian Boyle, who leads the team in hits and faceoff percentage, was a surprise healthy scratch after playing in 10 straight games . . . The third period became chippy, with pushing and bumping after the whistles. With nine minutes left, there was a slash on Gaborik in front of the net and both benches were warned . . . The Rangers' Micheal Haley and the Senators Chris Phillips fought, with Phillips getting an additional instigating minor for leaving his visor on.