The Rangers have been scouting hard in the Pennsylvania town and not searching for the tastiest chocolate confection.
Sheldon Souray, the veteran defenseman who plays for the Hershey Bears, the Edmonton Oilers AHL franchise, may be an ingredient that the Blueshirts’ impotent power play needs. Because the cupboard seems bare.
The deficiences with a man advantage were most glaring this afternoon when the Rangers lost 2-0 to the Canadiens, stretching their winless streak to four games, the largest since last season.
The two goals---one by Scott Gomez and an empty-netter with 37.4 seconds left by Tomas Plekanec---and the 35 saves by goaltender Carey Price weren’t the most significant numbers.
That’s one Rangers shot on four consecutive power plays in the second period at Bell Centre, while the Canadiens had three on Martin Biron. In the last 26 power plays the Rangers have three goals, and one was a 5-on-3. Only six teams in the league are less productive on the power play.
“We don’t have a legitimate quarterback,” said coach John Tortorella, playing a tune that’s beginning to sound like a broken record. The Rangers have experimented with numerous different defensemen and forwards on the points with little success. “I tried Zook (Mats Zuccarello) there today, I’m not sure we’re going to stay with that. Today, we couldn’t make two passes…. It’s execution. It’s been a struggle for us for about a month or so. We’re a better team than that.”
And although Tortorella said he thought the team played well 5 on 5, including 19 shots in the third period, “it means squat. We didn’t score….your top guys need to make some difference in the game.”
Erik Christensen, who was in the lineup for the first time in 16 games after spraining his knee, was inserted between Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik, and didn’t have a shot in 10:55. Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Wojtek Wolski’s shot total? Zero.
“We have to start shooting the puck more, we’re not getting the job done,” said Ryan Callahan. “We’re getting down to the home stretch, we’ve got to start putting some wins together. We all know what the standings are and what has to be done to make sure we make the playoffs.”
With their third loss in three games to the Canadiens, the Rangers (29-22-4) are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Montreal, who have two games in hand.
In the previous three losses, two in regulation and one in a shootout, Tortorella cited some sub-par goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. But this defeat couldn’t be pinned on Biron, who made 27 saves.
“We played an okay game, but it’s February, it needs to be that much better,” said Biron. “We’re snakebitten a little bit, hit a couple posts, pucks go behind the goalie and not in. We’ve got to give it a little bit more. We have to put this behind us and step it up in Detroit on Monday.”
With the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaching, the Rangers have cap room for Souray---who would have to be acquired in a trade or through re-entry waivers---or perhaps another blueliner (the Leafs’ Tomas Kaberle, the Panthers’ Bryan McCabe) who can add some flavor to a dangerously bland power play.
In yet another game, the Rangers generated a third-period push, with 19 shots against Carey Price, but came up dry. In the last six games, (2-3-1) the Rangers have outshot opponents 54-15 in the third period.
“Seems like we’ve been showing up in the thirds,” said Ryan Callahan. “We had some great chances, seemed like we were in their end the whole period. We’ve got to start burying those or do that the whole game. Price was playing the puck well: When he does, it’s hard to get in on the forecheck; no matter where we put it, the D would get it or he was making a breakout pass. In the third, we placed our dumps better.”
Brandon Prust lamented the lost opportunities. “We’ve had a lot of frustrating games; we fall behind and try to crawl back in. It’s tough in this league, you can’t always crawl back in the third.”
In Friday’s practice, Derek Stepan was between Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik; Erik Christensen between Sean Avery and Mats Zuccarello, and Prust and Wojtek Wolski flanking Brian Boyle. But for Saturday’s matinee, the lines were shuffled again. In his post-game comments, coach John Tortorella hinted that he may be tinkering too much. “I sat there thinking, ‘Should I just leave them alone?’ I go with my stomach. I’m really frustrated with a few of them.” And he flat out said, without naming him that "it will be difficult to succeed" without the team's top scorer---Marian Gaborik, with no goals in seven games.
Besides Biron, I thought Anisimov and Dubinsky played well and that line, with Callahan, was the best one---the one that hasn't been tinkered with.
Chris Drury had fluid drained from his left knee on Friday and Tortorella said there was no timetable for his return…D Steve Eminger was a healthy scratch for the third straight in favor of Michael Del Zotto. Tortorella said that even though Eminger “isn't 35”, the idea is to continue Del Zotto’s development…Tortorella is content with 12 forwards and would call up a player from the AHL only if one was injured.