The New York Rangers continued their spotty, up-and-down play Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 4-1. With 62 points on the year, there's certainly been more highs than lows this season, but if one thing is clear from this 2-3-0 funk, it's that the Rangers need to generate more offense.
The Blueshirts went down at 3:16 on a Chris Kunitz rebound marker after Ruslan Fedotenko fanned on an easy tap-in pass from Ryan Callahan. New York started very slowly and was really lucky it wasn't down more earlier on, but Henrik Lundqvist and the defense was the reason the first period ended just 1-0. About midway through the first period, New York did not have a shot; it was an 8-0 Pittsburgh advantage, and it finished at 14-8 the away team.
Coach John Tortorella is certainly right: An instant spark is added to whichever line Carl Hagelin is a part of. For about two games now he's been with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, and at 10:06 he knotted the game at 1, purely on his speed, as Gaborik flicked a back-handed pass from the neutral zone that Hagelin skated through in the offensive zone to beat Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole.
But that was all the scoring for the Rangers, as the Penguins scored three times in the third period (one an empty netter). Marc Staal's pinch caused a 3-on-1 and the Pens' Richard Park ultimately capitalized for the game-winner, and he later couldn't stop the puck (or clear it) along the boards and Evgeni Malkin converted for the third. Malkin's empty-netter gave him his 24th of the season. The Blueshirts had 13 shots in the third period, but could not get one to break through, which could have been all they needed to spark a scoring run.
The Rangers head into Saturday's afternoon tilt with the Boston Bruins as a team that is scratching and clawing for every point over the last week-plus. Over their last six games (3-3-0), they've scored nine goals. The defense, along with Lundqvist, has to be absolutely perfect at this point with goal scoring so hard to come by. Also not helping their cause is a power play that hasn't recorded a goal in eight games.