Marian Gaborik is struggling with his confidence and mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, with no goals in eight games and one in 10.
Displeased with his star’s performance, Rangers coach John Tortorella sent a message by limiting Gaborik to just 2:25 in the second period and 12:45 overall in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Flyers, with only Kris Newbury, Sean Avery, Chris Drury and Ruslan Fedotenko playing fewer minutes among the forwards.
Tortorella said there were no physical issues with the team’s leading scorer last season. “It’s just…we need production from him,’’ he said. “We’ve got guys grinding their (butt) off developing scoring chances, we need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us. Some guys just need to score a goal to gain some confidence.”
It was the second straight loss for the Blueshirts (26-18-3), who have scored 13 goals in the last nine games.
For the second consecutive night, the Rangers mounted a third period rally, this time led by the line of Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan, who combined for six points, but fell short. Trailing 3-0, Wolski scored his second goal as a Ranger when Brian Boucher let a seemingly harmless sharp angle shot to his right slip between his knees at 9:13. Then Mats Zuccarello (two assists) set up Derek Stepan for his 13th at 11:37. Martin Biron (7-4) was pulled with 1:41 to go, but time ran out.
“We can’t spot them a 3-0 lead and expect to win,” said Brandon Dubinsky, who missed a half-open net with less than five minutes to play. “I need to start burying my chances.”
The power play is not helping at all. Another 0-for-3 evening left them at a dismal 2-for-32 with the man advantage.
“We are trying to be too cute,” said Stepan, who got the puck poked off his stick on the power play, a turnover that led to Mike Richards converting a saucer pass from Claude Giroux over a sliding Steve Eminger at 4:25 of the second. It was the fourth shorthander allowed by the Rangers. “I’m definitely not happy about it. I made a mistake and it ends up in the back of the net.”
In the first, the Rangers killed two power plays, but the Flyers scored shortly after each ended. Jeff Carter deflected Matt Carle’s slapper from the point over Biron, starting for the first time since beating St. Louis 2-1 last Sunday. Dubinsky had left the box 12 seconds earlier. With Matt Gilroy off for hooking at 12:48, Ville Leino, from one knee between the circles, beat Biron stickside six seconds after he came back on the ice.
The Rangers put 19 of their 38 shots on Boucher in the second period and also lashed out in frustration. At 8:32, Brandon Prust started shoving with Darrell Powe, Matt Walker stepped in along the boards and Kris Newbury belted him from behind. Sean Avery squared off with Matt Carle, and dropped Carle, in his first NHL fight, with a right to the face and threw several punches while the defenseman was on the ice. “The gloves were off,’’ Avery said. “It was a scrum. I didn’t even know who I had.”