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Slumping Rangers lack confidence at home

John Tavares of the Islanders tries to control

John Tavares of the Islanders tries to control the puck in the first period against Derek Stepan of the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

No one's pointing any fingers in the Rangers' locker room.

Instead, they're looking for answers on how to stop their free fall.

The Rangers will attempt to salvage something from the last two games of what has been a disastrous nine-game homestand Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild and Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

No one could have anticipated that they would have only one win and four points in seven games (1-4-2) on the homestand after Friday's 5-3 loss to the Islanders.

The loss dropped the Rangers to 6-10-2 at the Garden. They are 10-8-0 on the road.

Some players said it's a matter of confidence.

"It's a matter of playing on our toes and playing with confidence," Dan Girardi said. "When we sit back and let them come and put the puck in our end, that's when late guys come and coverage gets lost. If we play with confidence and play with swagger and get up in their face in the neutral zone, we wouldn't defend so much.

"When things aren't going great, we have to find some confidence at home and find a way to create some momentum. Hopefully we can straighten it out."

The loss was especially hard to take for the Rangers because they rallied from an early two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead midway through the second period. Then the Islanders scored the game's final three goals. The Rangers also surrendered two shorthanded goals, including one on a penalty shot.

"It's tough right now when you lose a game like that," Brad Richards said. "You feel like maybe you're going to come out on top when you get the lead and get the crowd into it, so it's tough to really look at anything positive."

Some old-fashioned work ethic might be needed.

"When you outwork teams, you will find the bounces start going your way," Rick Nash said. "When you get outworked, that's when they seem to go against you. You've got to make your own luck."

The puck certainly hasn't bounced well for goalie Henrik Lundqvist (10-15-2, 2.77 GAA, .905 save percentage), who signed a seven-year, $59.5-million contract extension just before the homestand. He said he didn't make the saves he needed to make against the Islanders.

A new face in goal might be the perfect tonic to stop the slide. Cam Talbot, who has been impressive (6-2-0, 1.74 GAA, .934), hasn't started since a Dec. 2 loss to Winnipeg. Coach Alain Vigneault, who gave the team a day off Saturday, has said he wants to play Talbot at least once during the homestand.

After Monday night's game against the Maple Leafs, the Rangers will get a three-day holiday break before they hit the road. They'll play six of seven games away from the Garden in a 12-day span starting Friday in Washington.

And if they cannot win their next two games, this homestand will become a great opportunity missed -- and quite possibly 17 days that might define this season.

New York Sports