For two games in a row, the New York Rangers have looked like a team that's going through the motions. The effort has been there, but the in-your-face style has been absent and so have the goals. As a result, the Blueshirts dropped their second straight game Wednesday night, 2-1 to the Florida Panthers on the road.
It's clear what the problem is for this team right now, and all teams go through droughts like this: they've scored just one goal and mustered 37 shots (20 against Florida) in two games. The offense has not generated any sustained pressure, looking extremely weak on puck battles in all areas of the ice. As a result, it's been a one-and-done situation where the skaters get into the zone but after one (feeble) short-lasting attempt the opponent has retrieved the puck and is back on the attack. When you're struggling like this, the recipe for success should be simple: Throw the puck at the net. That has not occurred nearly enough during this mini slump and throughout the season as New York ranks last in the NHL in shots per game with 25.4.
Thus, when Jason Garrison's power-play slapshot evaded Henrik Lundqvist and put Florida up 1-0 midway through the first, it felt like the Rangers were down by three. Kris Versteeg put the Panthers up 2-0 early in the second, but this was a game that ultimately didn't have the feel of a blowout because of the way Lundqvist played. He was the reason the contest was as close as it was, making 36 saves in defeat -- a number of them eye-opening.
Three minutes after the Panthers went up by two, Derek Stepan answered after a nice shift from the first line via a pass from Marian Gaborik. It was Stepan's eighth goal of the year in his 100th NHL game.
The Blueshirts did not do much of anything else from that point on until the waning minutes of the game, in typical struggling-Rangers fashion. The power play was also dreadful yet again, going 0-for-4. There's simply too many statues, resulting in little-to-no shots, or very low-scoring chances when they do occur.
The one bright spot of the night was the penalty kill after Garrison's goal, particularly when Andre Deveaux was given a match penalty for elbowing Tomas Fleischmann and the Rangers had to kill off a five-minute man advantage. Granted, good goaltending always helps, but this game would've been out of reach much sooner if it wasn't for such a nice kill.