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After spending most of the season's first four months leading the Atlantic Division, the New York Rangers aren't just struggling - they're playing their worst hockey of the season.
Facing the Washington Capitals probably isn't the best way to break out of their slump.
The Rangers have lost five straight to the Capitals, a drought they'll try to end Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden as they look to win for the first time in six games.
New York (29-20-5) won its first five games of the season and played consistent if not spectacular hockey from there until the end of January. Lately, though, surges by New Jersey and Philadelphia combined with some uninspired performances by the Rangers have dropped coach Tom Renney's team to third place.
New York had been outscored 19-5 in going 0-3-1 from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, including a 10-2 loss in Dallas on Friday that captain Chris Drury referred to as "embarrassing, humiliating, and awful."
The Rangers had a chance to bounce back on Monday against the surging Devils, but again came up empty in a 3-0 loss. Three of their five shutouts this season have come since Jan. 18.
"We've got to score goals," said center Scott Gomez, who's scoreless during the 0-4-1 stretch. "It starts with me. I'm looked upon to create offense and score and I'm just not doing my job."
Gomez isn't the only big name struggling to produce offense. Chris Drury, tied with Nikolai Zherdev for second on the team with 15 goals, has just three assists in his last nine games. Zherdev had scored just once in 16 games before netting New York's two goals in the blowout at Dallas.
The Rangers' power play has been the biggest reason behind their offensive drought. They're just 1-for-17 with the man advantage over the last six games, and are now 27th in the league, converting 14.5 percent of their chances.
"For whatever reason, the urgency just isn't there on the power play," Gomez told the team's official Web site. "I think right now we are not doing everything with authority, especially on the power play where you need to work even harder."
Trouble with the power play has plagued New York against Washington (34-16-4) lately as well. The Rangers are 1-for-18 with the man advantage in going 0-2-3 in its last five games against the Capitals.
Three of those losses came in overtime, including a 5-4 defeat at MSG on Dec. 23 when New York blew a 4-0 lead. The other two OT losses, both last season, ended with goals from Capitals defenseman Mike Green.
Green has been on an historic tear recently, scoring in six straight games while amassing seven goals and seven assists. No defenseman had scored a goal in six consecutive games since Hall of Famer Ray Bourque with Boston in 1984.
Green had two on Saturday, both in the third period, to lift Washington over Florida 3-1. Green has 19 goals and 27 assists despite missing 13 games due to injury.
"It certainly has been Mike's last two weeks. Every game, everything he's touching is turning to gold," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "And I hope it doesn't end."
Green leads all defensemen in goals, but his stunning stretch hasn't kept the league's leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, off the board. Ovechkin has six goals and three assists in his past five games.
The winger has five goals and three assists during the Caps' five-game win streak against the Rangers.