For the first time in eight games the New York Rangers scored first. Yet for the eighth time in the last 10 games the Rangers failed to get the all-important two points -- despite a dominating third period -- as they fell to the first-place Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2. Marian Gaborik did not play after the first period due to a concussion that may or may not have occurred during the game, but John Tortorella is unsure.
The Rangers got on the board first, with Wojtek Wolski's 10th goal of the season 12:43 into the first period on a stuff in off of a Ryan McDonagh bank-pass off of the boards -- and for the most part, they controlled the pace of the period. Then, the Flyers proceeded to score three-straight goals, the first by Jeff Carter four minutes after the Rangers' goal as Henrik Lundqvist was screened, the second by Claude Giroux on the power play in the second period (12:42) after Lundqvist sprawled to make the initial save on Carter and the third by Daniel Carcillo, who swatted one right through Lundqvist's five-hole.
Just as they have all season, the Rangers didn't let a third-period deficit get them down. Derek Stepan -- who was constantly double shifted in the third and was the Rangers' best forward -- scored wide-open in front of the net on a flukey goal off of a dump in that initially hit off the boards then clipped Brian Boucher's skate. But despite all the pressure -- the Blueshirts spent nearly the entire 20 minutes in Philadelphia's zone and outshot their opponents, 15-3 -- the Rangers could not find the equalizer. Kris Versteeg would score the empty-net goal to double the deficit.
The Rangers lead the conference with 61 games played and are two points ahead of Carolina who has played one fewer game. Buffalo has 60 points with 58 games played and the surging Devils have two less games played and 54 points.
No matter the opponent, at this point the Rangers just need to find ways to get wins. Their current problem is scoring goals -- with all of the losses in this streak by two goals or less -- it's quite apparent that if they could get a big goal here or there, like they had in the first half of the season, these close losses would be wins. With Gaborik out with a concussion, it remains to be seen if Glen Sather will push harder for a forward now, or stick strictly with the youth. The Rangers aren't far off, but as the losses mount, frustration has to be setting in. Eight losses in the past 10 games is never something you want to be a part of.
With that being said, Tuesday's game against Carolina is a huge four-point swing that the Rangers must win to stay in the thick of the race.