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Thursday, March 3, 2011
Rangers searching for offense to try and salvage season

By Matt Ehalt

NEW YORK -- The Rangers don't have to do much soul-searching to find out why they've won just four of their last 15 games and were just swept in a three-game homestand that concluded Thursday night with a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

The reason for their sub-par play, which drew the ire of fans Thursday with a smattering of boos, is quite obvious.

"You can call it bad luck, you can call it whatever you want, we simply have to score some goals," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We had some breakdowns, but we didn't certainly give up many chances tonight."

As the Rangers try to hold on to to their claim to a playoff spot -- they have fallen to eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- they will look to score their scoring woes as they head into the final 16 games of the season. The Rangers scored just four goals on a homestand in which they lost each game in regulation.

In the last 15 games, the Rangers have scored 37 goals, but that statistic is deceiving. In the Rangers' four wins, they have scored 19 goals, leaving them with just 18 goals in their 11 losses. They haven't scored more than two goals in a loss since falling to Pittsburgh 4-3 in overtime on Feb. 1.

"Lately it feels like we're chasing in a lot of games and it's tough," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "Teams just back up and make it really tough for us. We get the chances, we don't bury them. You don't score, you're not winning."

While the Rangers never held a lead in their first two losses in this three-game home stretch, the Blue Shirts appeared to have righted the ship Thursday with a goal by Sean Avery just 3:13 into the game. Instead, that goal would be the Rangers high point of the game, as they failed to score on their next 39 shots and were just 1-of-41 on the night.

Tortorella thought a key stretch in the game was his team failing to get the second goal on two power play opportunities in the first period while leading 1-0. The Rangers had some good chances, including a near-goal by Ryan Callahan that was stopped by a falling Jose Theodore, but came up empty. In fact, the Rangers were 0-for-4 on the power play on the night and just 11-of-59 in the past 15 games.

As the Rangers faltered with a man advantage, Minnesota tied the game up on its only power play of the game.

"We are getting chances, goalies are making saves, but at the same time, this time of year, you have to find ways to bury them," Callahan said. "I had a pretty open net. We are playing good hockey, we just have to get a goal when we need it."

While the locker room was rather quiet and empty after this loss, the Rangers weren't shy in critiquing their lack of offense. Defenseman Marc Staal said he'd rather have 20 shots and score on four, similar to the Wild's line of four goals of 19 shots, then have the Rangers' line of one goal on 41 shots.

Brandon Dubinsky is taking it upon himself to score a big goal to galvanize this team. Callahan was critical on not scoring in the first to make it 2-0. They all realize their offense has gone into intermission in a critical point of the season.

Tortorella wants them to fight their way out of the slump -- one goal at a time.

"Guys that care end up pressing when they're not getting it done. They try to do even more, and that’s what pressing is," Tortorella said. "We've got to stay within our structure, stay together as a hockey club and try to find a way here."