The Rangers lost another game on home ice Tuesday night, and perhaps more importantly they lost another key player to injury. In the midst of dropping a 4-1 decision to the Nashville Predators the Rangers lost the services of team captain Ryan Callahan who suffered a sprained knee in the first period and will miss the next four-to-six weeks of action.
After a dismal weekend in which they lost 4-3 to the Devils in overtime and 4-1 to the Capitals, while also seeing alternate captain Marc Staal felled by a concussion, the Rangers lost for the seventh time in their last eight home games (1-6-1) Tuesday to fall to 5-8-1 at The Garden this season.
Considering their tough weekend and closed door meeting Sunday night, it would be hard to imagine a worse first period for the Rangers then the one they had Tuesday. Despite outshooting Nashville 10-6, the Rangers exited the ice after twenty minutes staring at a 2-0 deficit. If that wasn't bad enough they lost their captain to injury midway through the period.
Callahan, who played with extra jump right from the first drop of the puck Tuesday, looked to continue his physical play by throwing a check along the boards against Nashville defenseman Victor Bartley at the nine-minute mark of the opening period. Callahan succeeded in delivering the check, but his leg got pinned awkwardly between Bartley and the boards, and he ended up limping towards the bench. From there Callahan exited to the dressing room with trainer Jim Ramsay, anf the team announced during the first intermission that Callahan had suffered a sprained knee and would not return the rest of the game.
Being sidelined another four-to-six weeks has to be extremely frustrating for Callahan. He missed all of the pre-season and the season-opener while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery before a broken thumb suffered October 16th against the Capitals shut him down again. Callahan returned on November 4th, and now a month later he is injured again.
Callahan's injury leaves the Rangers without two of the three players who wear letters on their sweater, and two of the team's most important players. Staal suffered a concussion Saturday night against the Devils and is sidelined indefinitely.
The Rangers nearly lost another key player to injury when Ryan McDonagh took a hard, awkward spill into the boards moments before Nashville's game-opening goal at 13:45 of the first period. McDonagh rose gingerly to get back into the play and blocked a shot before Nashville's Nick Spaling scored his fifth goal to put the Predators up 1-0.
Fortunately for the Rangers McDonagh did not miss any shifts, though unfortunately for the home team they fell into a 2-0 hole late in that opening period of play. Rich Clune scored his first goal of the season, finishing with a neat backhand past Henrik Lundqvist after the backchecking Dominic Moore was unable to get his stick on a Matt Hendricks' pass that set up the score at 17:52.
The Blueshirts came out and played a much better second period, and despite being outshot 12-6, they scored the only goal of the period to pull within 2-1 of Nashville. Less than a minute after killing off a Predators power play, the Rangers broke through against Nashville's rookie goaltender Carter Hutton.
Derick Brassard entered the offenisve zone and made a pass to Brad Richards on left wing. Richards did not heistate putting a pass right on the tape of Rick Nash as the Rangers star forward cut to the net from right wing. Nash showed excellent body control and pulled Hutton out of position before slipping his sixth goal of the season into the cage at 6:38, cutting the Rangers deficit in half.
Nashvile was able to reclaim their two-goal advantage, however, just 2:35 into the third period. After Dan Girardi and Mats Zuccarello collided in front of their own net, a loose puck found it's way to the Predators' Hendricks who deposited it past Lundqvist for his second goal of the season, staking Nashville to a 3-1 lead.
Paul Gaustad, who earlier had assisted on two goals, scored one of his own, into the empty net, at 18:54 to close out the scoring.
The Rangers look to snap their three-game slide Thursday night when Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov lead the Columbus Blue Jackets into The Garden.