Down 1-0 to the St. Louis Blues in the third period tonight, the Rangers had another opportunity to salvage at least a point at home.
Blues forward B.J. Crombeen smashed Derek Stepan from behind into the end boards with 12:35 left in regulation. Stepan was dazed, on his knees, and the Rangers had a five-minute power play with a chance to tie the Blues, who had won six in a row.
But they fell short, as they had done in the three previous chances with the man-advantage. In a particularly tough moment, Artem Anisimov had the left side of the net open, but his shot slid off his blade and the puck hit the side of the cage.
It was the second consecutive game that the Blueshirts had failed to score on a five-minute major and the first time they were shut out in 14 games. Alex Steen, who had scored off a rush in the second period, added the empty-netter with 3.9 seconds left for the 2-0 final.
"Their PK outworked our PP," said Ryan Callahan. "We had a couple chances, but not enough. We knew coming in that they were going to be aggressive on their penalty kill and unfortunately, we didn't match their intensity."
So, the Rangers (7-6-1) dropped to 2-4-1 at home in the first game of a season-long four-game homestand, and it left Brandon Dubinsky bitter about the inability to start well and make a statement at the Garden.
"We've got to figure it out," said Dubinsky, who leads the team with 10 goals. "Not enough effort, not enough jam. We've got to be tougher to play against than we were tonight. It's very frustrating; after a emotional win the other night on the road, to come back here---which is what should be where we're the strongest. It starts in here. We have to make sure we're all prepared and understand the opportunities, what it means to play here and make sure we play a full 60 minutes, because we haven't put many games together like that. Until we do that, there's going to be some long games here."
St. Louis backup Ty Conklin made 27 saves, but "we didn’t make it tough enough on him, not enough traffic," Dubinsky said. "We didn't seem like we were on the same page. Guys would get the puck in deep and there wasn't anybody in there digging the pucks out the way we have when we've been successful."
For only the second time in 43 games, Henrik Lundqvist wasn't between the pipes at the Garden. In his place stood Martin Biron, whose previous start here wasn't effective. Biron was on the wrong end of a 6-4 loss to the Thrashers on Oct. 27. It was 5-2 before the Rangers rallied in the third period, but fell short.
Biron, who made 21 saves, including 14 in the first period, was far more effective last night, allowing just Steen's high stick-side wrister off a 3 on 2 rush at 5:16 of the second period.
Alex Frolov did get a shot past Conklin, but it didn't count.
With 1:56 left in the first period, Frolov was in front with defenseman Nikita Nikitin, who apparently had hit the puck with a high stick coming back by the blue line---prompting a whistle when Conklin touched it. Frolov then jammed the puck under Conklin, but the score was waved off by ref Bill McCreary. Replays seemed to indicate that Nikitin did not hit the puck above his shoulder.
"The past few games we have struggled as far as putting shots on there," said John Tortorella. "We can't look for something better. You watch the league, everyone is throwing bad angle shots."