The Rangers are missing beats \at the wrong time.
“We’re happy we got a point, but we’re one sloppy hockey club,” coach John Tortorella said after tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders in Uniondale. “Right now at this time of year, we’ve got to get out of it quickly.”
With Monday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching and the front office still interested in Columbus power forward Rick Nash and perhaps other deals, the Rangers haven’t won in regulation in four games, the longest stretch of the year. They had a three-game stretch when they went 0-1-2 to open the regular season.
Nonetheless, the Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference with 82 points (38-15-6) and will play the 10th of 14 back-to-back series against the Sabres tonight at Madison Square Garden. They are 7-1-1 in the second game of those series.
“It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings when we play the Islanders here,” Tortorella said. “It’s always a crazy game. I’m happy we battled back, but as far as where we are mentally in some stages of the game, we need to be sharper.”
The strong start that the Rangers had dearly wanted didn’t happen. The Islanders came fast, busting out to a 2-0 lead in the first 8:42, but the Rangers battled back. Marc Staal scored a power play goal at 12:47 of the first period to halve the Islanders lead, and then, down 3-1, the Blueshirts erased a two-goal deficit for the second time this season (the other was against the Flyers in the Winter Classic) on goals by Marian Gaborik, his team-leading 28th, and Derek Stepan. But it wasn’t enough to gain a critical second point.
“I was fighting it a little bit,” said Martin Biron, who made 24 saves but has allowed at least three goals in his last four starts. “It’s not exactly where I want it to be. As the game wore on I was trusting my feet a little more.”
So after a remarkable ride, with 23 games left, the Rangers need a gut-check. “It’s a good place to have teams gunning for you when you’re on top,” said Biron. “Good teams, good players, play well when you’re fighting adversity.”
Notes & Quotes
Henrik Lundqvist (28-12-4) is expected to start tonight at the Garden...The Rangers were 1 for 4 in the shootout. Gaborik scored; Ryan Callahan had the puck poked away by Evgeny Nabokov, who stopped Brad Richards’ backhander and John Mitchell to end it…. Brian Boyle and Michael Del Zotto apparently were unaware of the rule that prohibits a player from assisting another who lost a stick. Del Zotto slid Boyle’s stick towards him and was penalized at 6:29 of the second period, and P.A. Parenteau converted on the power play. “Oh for God’s sake, yes he needs to know that rule,” said Tortorella…The power play was 2-for-5, and Tortorella said he liked the work of Marc Staal, who scored to cut the lead to 2-1, and Anton Stralman who had an assist.