NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have lost four in a row and they're worried about what coach David Quinn is calling their "troubling" inconsistencies.
"It's too sporadic," Quinn said. "The [good] stretches aren't long enough and then when we do have a drop the drop is too dramatic. We've got to find that balance of, 'OK, we may not be able to play like that for 60 minutes, but your bad can't be that bad.'"
The Rangers have a handful of impact players in their first season with the team, including forwards Artemi Panarin, defenseman Jacob Trouba, rookie forward Kaapo Kakko, and rookie defensemen Adam Fox and Libor Hajek.
They also played only three games in the first 15 days of the season, including one in 11 from Oct. 6-16.
But they have played three games in the past four days, enough of a sample size to sound some alarm bells.
"The concern is how bad we can be during stretches," Quinn said.
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There were moments he liked in their 5-2 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, but not nearly enough.
Quinn was especially unhappy with how the Rangers played the next night, a 5-2 loss at the Washington Capitals. He said they were bad defensively and it resulted in glaring chances against. He called it "a lot of purposeless hockey."
It was more of the same in the first 35 minutes against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, a 3-2 loss.
New York allowed three first-period goals against Vancouver and was being outshot 32-17 before forward Jesper Fast scored with 5:02 remaining in the second period to make it 3-1.
"You're not going to have your legs every night, you're not going to be great every night, but you've got to manage a game," Quinn said. "You've got to find a way to be structurally sound and learn to live another day. We haven't found that yet. That's just not in our game right now and it's something we've got to understand. … When we're bad we force plays and we get panicky. It's troubling."
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But the Rangers may have found something positive to build on in the third period against the Canucks.
Panarin scored with 14:29 remaining to get them to within 3-2. They stayed in control the rest of the way and outshot the Canucks 17-6 in the period.
"We pressured a lot more, we got more zone time and we were in the right spots," center Mika Zibanejad said. "We were just working smarter. When it's a little bit more clear what the first guy is going to do it's so much easier for other guys to read off of. I think the uncertainty in the beginning [of the game], we felt like we were waiting for someone to kind of do it. It was a good push back."
Why didn't they play like that from the opening face-off? Henrik Lundqvist was asking that too.
"We need to understand going into this game, we lost three in a row, that's how the first should look like," the veteran goalie said. "We should be so eager to get out there and get two points. Sometimes it's hard to get going. Sometimes it's just hard to get that energy going and that speed going, but that desperation should always be there, especially losing three in a row. You need to feel it in the room. You need to feel it going into the first. We felt it definitely more in the third. We need to learn that."
The positive news for the Rangers is the third period against the Canucks proved to them the difference they can make when they play fast, win puck battles on the wall, forecheck with purpose and get to the front of the net.
The next step is to find a way to push ahead. They'll get a chance against the Arizona Coyotes at the Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-A, FS-A Plus, NHL.TV).
"We know the kind of team we're capable of being," Trouba said. "We showed the kind of team we can be. We've just got to bring it for 60 minutes."