Heading into Tuesday's contest with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers had won ten consecutive matchups with the 'Canes dating to 2011, many in dramatic fashion, including one last Friday in Raleigh. However Tuesday night at the PNC Arena there was no magic for the Rangers as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Hurricanes.
"We (gave) away two points because we didn't work," explained an irritated Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault after the game. "I haven't said that very often about this group this year, but right from the start our work ethic wasn't what it needs to be in this league to have any chance. When we do that we're just a below average team, and that's what we showed tonight."
Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty both recorded a goal and an assist for Carolina, and rookie Elias Lindholm scored the all-important insurance goal for the Hurricanes with 5:29 to play in the third period.
The Rangers managed 25 shots against Cam Ward, while Henrik Lundqvist was solid in goal for the Rangers, finishing with 32 saves.
"To win hockey games we have to make sure we do the dirty work in our own end, make good decisions, and tonight I think we made it just a little too easy for them," explained Lundqvist, who failed in his bid to win his 301st career game which would have tied him with Mike Richter for most in franchise history.
After a scoreless first period in which New York was outshot 13-5, the Rangers gave up a goal early in the second period to fall behind 1-0 before surrendering another late in the second to drop into a 2-1 hole after 40 minutes of play.
Tlusty was left all alone in the low slot 33 seconds into the middle stanza, and he buried his 11th goal off a Jordan Staal pass as the Rangers were left scrambling behind the goal line--a scene that was all-too-familiar on the night. Then with 1 minute 42 seconds to play in the period, Jordan Staal and Tlusty took advantage of a major breakdown by the Rangers and were left with a 2-on-0 advantage in front of Lundqvist. This time it was Staal--assisted by Tlusty--who scored the go-ahead goal.
On his brother's goal, the Rangers Marc Staal got caught up ice, and no forwards got back into the defensive end of the ice in time to help out Anton Stralman, the lone Ranger back to help out Lundqvist. However Stralman lost a battle along the wall, creating the 2-on-0 against Lundqvist, with Carolina's Staal netting his 13th goal.
"Not this time of the year, this should not happen," said Staal, who was on ice for all three Hurricanes goals. "Heading into the rest of our games we need to be sharper, need that effort, and our consistency neds to be there every night.This was the first time in a while we had a lapse in that."
In between the two Carolina goals the Rangers got one of their own--Kevin Klein scoring his first as a Blueshirt at 4:22 of the second period. Mats Zuccarello made a sweet pass from left wing along the goal line to Klein, the trailer on the play, and the defensive-minded defenseman wired a shot up and over Ward's glove, tying the score at the time, 1-1. The goal was Klein's second of the season--his first coming as a member of the Nashville Predators back on December 27th.
Lundqvist was terrific in keeping his team in the game as Carolina not only outshot New York, but outchanced them, as well. In the third period, with the Rangers trailing by a goal, Lundqvist stood tall as the Hurricanes recorded six of the first seven shots of the period.
Carolina also had a pair of shots hit iron behind Lundqvist over the first two periods. Alexander Semin rang one off the post in the first period and Patrick Dwyer's backhand shot hit the post midway through the second.
Ward was barely tested at the other end of the ice, though his sharp left pad save on Marty St. Louis' breakaway late in the first period was both impressive and clutch.
"No one hands you points at this time of the year, and we didn't earn it tonight," stated St. Louis, who had a team-high five shots on goal while playing more than 20 minutes. "We're all big boys here. We understand where we are this time of the year, and we have to be better."
Derek Dorsett returned to the Rangers lineup with a bang--or several bangs as it were--credited with a team-high six hits in just 14 shifts and 8:45 worth of ice time. Dorsett replaced Dan Carcillo in the lineup, and skated on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle.
The Rangers, who opened a three-game road trip with the loss in Carolina, will skate in Minnesota against the Wild on Thursday, before facing the Jets in Winnipeg on Friday night.