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Rangers looking for answers following seventh defeat in eight games

Lundqvist pulled again in lopsided loss to Bruins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist has never played a game in his 13-year NHL career when the New York Rangers have been mathematically eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

That could change this season if things don't change quickly for the Rangers, but there's no evidence to suggest a turnaround is coming.

The Rangers lost 6-1 to the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, when Lundqvist was pulled for the third time in five games, their defensive lapses were massive and the missed assignments were glaring.

"Disappointing, frustrating and embarrassing," Lundqvist said.

Added captain Ryan McDonagh: "It's probably one of the worst games of my career and one of the worst games I've ever been a part of in my Rangers career."

Video: Bergeron scores two as Bruins roll past Rangers, 6-1

Considering those comments, it's fair to state the obvious: that it's increasingly difficult for the Rangers to stay confident in their belief that they are a legitimate playoff contender and the three points that separates them from playoff position in the Eastern Conference are surmountable.

"I think that's the key right now, not to overreact when bad things happen, but it's hard when things have been going as bad as they have lately to stay the course and stay focused on the right things," Lundqvist said.

The Rangers were looking like a team primed for an eighth consecutive playoff berth on Jan. 1, when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field. But these days that feels like a lifetime ago in their dressing room.

Video: Rangers, Sabres mic'd up for 2018 Winter Classic

They have lost four in a row and seven of eight, all in regulation. They are 4-11-0 since the Winter Classic with seven of the losses by three goals or more, the latest being arguably their worst against the red-hot Bruins, who are 27-4-4 since Nov. 16.

Rick Nash scored five minutes into the game to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Boston led 5-1 with 10 minutes left in the second period.

"It's been brutal, no question about it," McDonagh said. "With everything going on with the team we need to stay focused on trying to put together somewhat of a complete game. We're not getting close."

He's right, and to McDonagh's other point, there is so much going on with the Rangers right now that it wouldn't be surprising if their focus was clouded.

Injuries have mounted, with defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (knee surgery for a meniscus tear) and Marc Staal (cervical strain) and forwards Chris Kreider (blood clot and rib resection surgery), Pavel Buchnevich (concussion symptoms) and Jimmy Vesey (concussion) sidelined.

Video: BUF@NYR: Buchnevich nets Zibanejad's great pass

Lundqvist hasn't been the solution, although it's fair to say a lot of what has transpired has little to do with him. In fact, the Rangers are still within three points of a playoff position largely because of his .931 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average in 31 appearances from Nov. 1-Jan. 21.

"We need more, clearly," Lundqvist said prior to the game Wednesday.

Help isn't on the way, unless some of the injured players return soon.

Unlike in previous seasons, the Rangers are expected to be sellers before the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 26.

Nash, who is in the final year of his contract, confirmed Monday that he has submitted his 18-team no-trade list to the Rangers, a requirement based on the terms of his contract before the Rangers can trade him, which they clearly intend to do if they've asked him for his list.

Video: BOS@NYR: Rick Nash opens scoring on nice wrister

Defenseman Nick Holden and forwards Michael Grabner and David Desharnais are also likely on the block since they are all in the final year of their contracts.

Rumors have swirled that McDonagh and forward Mats Zuccarello, each signed through next season, could be available as well.

"Yeah, this might be a little different year," Lundqvist said.

A lot different.

The Rangers in the Lundqvist era have traded high draft pick after high draft pick year after year to acquire veterans like Nash, Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle and Eric Staal in hopes of it being enough to win the Stanley Cup.

They came close. They got to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012, to the Cup Final in 2014 and back to the Eastern Conference Final, Game 7 even, in 2015. They've won at least one round in the playoffs seven times since 2006.

The only time they missed the playoffs with Lundqvist as their goalie was in 2010, when they were eliminated on the final day of the regular season in a 2-1 shootout loss at the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Rangers don't know how to deal with what they're dealing with now, and it's all added up to a confluence of negativity.

Video: NYR@NSH: Lundqvist makes glove save on Johansen

"Away from the rink, it's hard not to obviously be affected by it, but it should not affect our play," Lundqvist said. "Once you come to the rink you should approach it the same way. You have to."

Except it's not working and the losing is taking its toll.

"It should," Lundqvist said. "If you're OK with losing, you're never going to win. … If losing doesn't affect you, that's not easy to stomach."

The Rangers might need an antacid to get through the rest of the season if they can't find some solutions quickly.

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