The return of two injured players, Marc Staal and Ruslan Fedotenko, as well as 41 shots on goal, could not shake the Rangers out of a tailspin that could just spiral into another year that culminates in watching the post-season on television.
The Minnesota Wild wiped out an early 1-0 lead on Sean Avery's goal with three consecutive goals as the Blueshirts dropped yet another game at home this season, where they sport a 14-16-3 record, the 5th worst in the league. Fact: That's no way to make the playoffs.
With the loss, the Rangers dropped into eighth place in the East, as the Hurricanes, with a 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo, rose into seventh place by a point, with a game in hand. The ninth-place Sabres are two points behind, with three games in hand.
“It’s definitely a challenge not to get frustrated,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who faced 19 shots. “It’s not a good time to lose three at home.”
The Ottawa Senators, who host the Rangers Friday, have even fewer points than the Wild, but at this point, any team can give the Blueshirts (4-10-1 in the last 15) a run for the money.
In the first period, the Rangers led 1-0, and 8-0 in shots until Jared Spurgeon managed one on Lundqvist with 2:43 left. The Wild were used to this: They have been outshot in 57 of 65 games, but won 31 of them.
Avery's goal, on a pass from Erik Christensen from behind Theodore at 3:13, was his third of the season. But two New York power plays, created by gaffes from Theodore at 6:11 and Cal Clutterbuck at 14:04, each for clearing the puck above the glass, looked as dismal as before Monday’s arrival of Bryan McCabe and his fearsome slap shot from the point.
Ryan Callahan had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 at 14:58, but Theodore, falling backward and swiping his stick on the ice, made the save of the game at the doorstep.
“The most important part was after we get the one-goal lead, we have a couple power plays. We don’t score,” coach John Tortorella said. “You can call it bad luck, you can call it whatever you want, we simply have to score some goals.”
With Christensen off for high-sticking at 3:08 of the second, the Wild tied the game at 1. Kyle Brodziak, camped in front, deflected Spurgeon's right-point shot at 4:36. Casey Wellman beat Matt Gilroy to the left post to tip Brent Burns pass and put the Rangers in a 2-1 hole at 12:36.
In the third, Pierre-Marc Bouchard beat Lundqvist from the left circle on a shot that hit Gilroy at 8:15, and then for the fourth time, the Rangers couldn’t get a stick on loose pucks in front on the power play.
“Same thing. We generated some chances, we just didn’t find a way to bury it,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “We have to have guys hang around the net a little more and get a bounce.”
The Rangers suffered another injury when at 4:22 of the period, Ryan McDonagh missed a check on Brodziak and he spun into the center ice boards. Tortorella said the rookie defenseman wrenched his knee and there did not appear to be structural damage. As for psychological damage, that can’t really be measured.