Shirts' search for scores continues

NEW YORK -- Well, let’s just say that Rick Nash's return did not solve the Rangers' most immediate problem.

That’s not an indictment on Nash, who was impressive in his first game back after missing almost six weeks with a concussion, but rather the team’s goal-challenged offense.

Despite the fact that the Rangers have managed a meager four goals in as many games and are without an even-strength, five-on-five goal in the last three, it would be wrong to characterize the group as anemic.

The Blueshirts didn’t lack for chances and opportunities Tuesday night in their 2-1 loss to Boston. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask played a pivotal role with a sublime 43-save effort to dispatch the Rangers, but the Blueshirts' inability to finish remains a growing concern as the team fell below .500 at 10-11-0.

Derick Brassard notched a second-period, power-play marker, but the Rangers couldn’t counter their way back after the Bruins built a 2-0 lead on goals from fourth liners Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille.

“We need to finish.” said Chris Kreider, who was stymied repeatedly by Rask throughout the game. “We need to capitalize on our chances and help out [Henrik Lundqvist].”

Kreider was, of course, speaking about his own shortcomings Tuesday, when he was stopped by Rask on an abundance of prime opportunities. The 22-year-old winger was awarded his first NHL penalty shot after being dragged down on a breakaway by Johnny Boychuk in the first, but Rask got a piece of his shot to preserve a scoreless tie. Kreider fired wide on another stellar chance in the second and was denied at the left post by Rask in the third.

He was not pleased with himself after the loss.

“I’m confident in my ability to shoot a hockey puck. I think when I hit my spot, it tends to go in, especially pretty close, in tight,” Kreider said. “When your linemates are giving you opportunities and helping you to get chances you need to finish, you need to reward them, so I guess it’s just back to the drawing board.”

Two straight losses with one goal to show for both games is not how the Rangers are going to shake the “.500 hockey” tag, but coach Alain Vigneault has been encouraged by the looks his team has generated and the defensive play in their own end.

The Rangers have recorded 80 shots in their past two games but have been held off by scorching-hot goaltenders. Before Tuesday night’s defeat, the Rangers were blanked by Ben Scrivens, despite lobbing 37 shots his way.

“We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do to get them [goals],” Vigneault said.

The positive reinforcement has not been there, however, and the Rangers’ frustrating futility will be at the forefront of their minds as they prepare to embark on a five-game road trip beginning Thursday in Dallas.

The Rangers have to continue fighting for the flurries of chances up front, continue battling down low in the defensive zone to limit their opponents.

But one goal per game isn’t going to cut it, and every player on the team knows that has to change.

“It’s a mixed feeling,” said goaltender Lundqvist. “You’re happy we’re playing well, but in the end, it’s all about winning.”