The trudge continues, and the Rangers are inching deeper into the mire.
Since the lockout in 2004-05, the Rangers had never been under .500 this deep in the season.
With the Rangers and Sabres tied at 2 midway through the second period and with the Blueshirts on a power play that had been successful twice, the tide turned here at Madison Square Garden, as it has so many times this season.
After a clearing chip by defenseman Henrik Tallinder that bounced past Ales Kotalik on the left point, Patrick Kaleta scored his second goal of the game, wiring a shorthanded breakaway shot over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove for the game-winner.
With that, the Sabres had a 3-2 lead, to which the Rangers, now 14-15-2 and with one win in the last seven games, could not respond. ****
“Our power play was working early and you get one scored on you like that with the way we are struggling to be consistent offensively…” said coach John Tortorella, “it’s just a kick in the teeth.”
After scoring just two goals overall in losses to Detroit and Chicago, the Rangers dormant power play (1-for-16) clicked twice in the first period and then fizzled on the next four chances, including a golden opportunity when Tim Connolly tripped Marian Gaborik at 14:52 of the third period.
Instead of playing desperate, the Rangers, with Chris Drury at the point instead of Kotalik, passed the puck around the perimeter, as the frustrated home crowd hooted derisively, and never forced goaltender Ryan Miller (36 saves) to make a stop.
“I thought our PP early on was getting shots on net and we had guys crashing there,” said Ryan Callahan, who scored on the first power play after he forechecked Tallinder behind the net then drifted alone in front and beat Miller high on a nifty feed from Gaborik to tie the game at 1 at 10:22 “Late in the third, we need to start to throw more pucks at Miller and try to get a dirty goal.”
Or any kind of goal.
At 12:17, Gaborik had given the Rangers a 2-1 edge with his 22nd goal of the season, picking the far side of the net after stickhandling into the left circle during a 4-3 man advantage. But the lead melted in less than three minutes.
Kaleta, who took a run at defenseman Paul Mara here in February 2008 with a hit that shelved Mara for 12 games after facial surgery, swiped the puck past Lundqvist while falling across the goal mouth at 14:28. Try as they might, the Rangers couldn’t rally.
“We just need to make one play, an offensive play,” said coach John Tortorella, whose troops have scored two or fewer goals in 15 of the last 19 games. “We’re stuck at 2.”
After Kaleta’s goal---just the second shorthander surrendered by the Rangers this season----the Sabres, who were playing their third game in four nights and are atop the Northeast Division at 19-9-2, were cautious in the third period.
“They sit back a little bit and play a little bit of a trap and they played it well,” said Callahan, whose goal was his sixth of the season and second of the week against Buffalo, who lost to the Rangers 2-1 last Saturday.
“The first period was a strong one,” said Wade Redden, “but at the end of the night we are sitting here looking at a tight game and a loss. You can say you are close, right there, but at the end of the night there is something we have to do a little more to get the job done.”
The Rangers did produce 38 shots on Miller, including seven from Christopher Higgins. Every Rangers had a shot except Ilkka Heikkinen, Redden and Erik Christensen...Drury was minus-2, Callahan minus-3, Sean Avery minus-1. That line cannot survive...Gaborik was dazed but uninjured, after a collision with Derek Roy in mid-ice in the first period. He was receiving treatment on the back of his neck on the bench...Roy has slid the puck between the kneeling Lundqvist's pads at 6:25 of the first for a 1-0 lead...Vinny Prospal was 15-11 in faceoffs...Lun dqvist made 29 saves...It was Gaborik's 13th multi-point game of the season. To no avail...Rangers, now 7-8 at home, skate at noon tomorrow.