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Sunday, December 8, 2013
Rangers hold closed-door meeting

By Katie Strang

NEW YORK -- In wake of yet another demoralizing loss, the Rangers invoked one of hockey's old standbys for a wayward team -- holding a closed-door player meeting after the final buzzer ended on a 4-1 dud to the Capitals.

Understandably, the Rangers had some things to discuss.

Both the desperation and urgency that has been lacking was on the agenda. The vital points squandered at home, too. Passive play and poor compete level. The list goes on and on.

Alain Vigneault
The Rangers held a closed-door meeting after falling 4-1 to the Capitals.
But in the end?

"We can talk all we want," coach Alain Vigneault said, seemingly bewildered by the monotonous mediocrity that has befallen his team.

Coming off an emotional 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils Saturday night -- one in which they let a lead disappear and lost defenseman Marc Staal to a possible concussion -- the Rangers allowed the Capitals to dictate play and control the tempo instead of protecting the Madison Square Garden ice as their own.

"We are just floating along and it's getting old," veteran center Brad Richards said.

Richards was right to indict the team's passion, as the Rangers barely appeared to show a pulse after a quick pair of goals put the team down 2-0 in the second.

Jason Chimera swept one in after a goal-mouth scramble 2:28 into the second period -- snapping goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's 202:28 minute shutout streak against the Capitals dating back to the playoffs last spring -- and depth defenseman Steve Oleksy tallied just 25 seconds later.

By the time Mikhail Grabovski went high and hard with a slapshot from point-blank range against Lundqvist on a questionably-awarded penalty shot later in the frame, the Rangers were already pretty much cooked.

The crowd was out of it, and the Rangers looked disinterested, too.

"The crowd had nothing to stand for tonight," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "And that's something we're ashamed of."

You have to wonder if there is a level of recoil at the lack of fire and snarl evident as the team has meandered its way to a 15-15-1 record. When 5-foot-7 winger Mats Zuccarello is your feistiest player, antagonizing Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin after his hard hit on Richards, perhaps that is cause for some concern.

Chris Kreider speared a couple of Capitals in a post-whistle scrum and Rick Nash traded jabs with Ovechkin after a high hit along the boards, but should that type of thing really fall to the team's skill players?

Asked if his team possesses the requisite level of grit, Vigneault provided this answer:

"With the personnel we have right now, we need to play a smart, high-percentage, good puck-movement game. If we can do that, we can be very effective, That's the type of personnel we have at this time."

Note that he said "at this time," because it is hard to imagine that nothing will change if this skid continues.

The Rangers have let three of four points slip past just this weekend. They have dropped eight of 13 at home this season, hardly an encouraging sign amidst a nine-game homestand at MSG.

"We have to respond. It's not good enough at home," captain Ryan Callahan said, stressing the need to be better during the cushy homestand. "It starts Tuesday night and that's how we're looking at this. We have a challenge in front of us and now we have to answer it."