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Rangers hurting from lack of secondary scoring

by Dan Rosen /

"Obviously our biggest weakness is that we are not getting any secondary scoring. We just aren't creating enough." -- John Tortorella

NEW YORK -- Forgive the New York Rangers for their frustrations, but they really don't feel that they are playing as bad as their record suggests over the last month.

After starting 7-1 thanks to a seven-game winning streak, the Blueshirts are just 4-8-1. They lost at home to Washington, 4-2, Tuesday night in a game where they managed only 20 shots, but yielded just 26.

They even came back to tie the game in the third period on a power-play goal from Marian Gaborik, but a turnover by Wade Redden led to a game-winning goal by Matt Bradley with 4:51 to play.

"This one hurts," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "The way we played in the third, we deserved at least a tie game, if not a win. I just couldn't come up with a big save at the end. It's a little frustrating. It's just a tough one to lose."

The Rangers have had a few of those during this 13-game stretch, like the 3-2 loss in Minnesota and the 5-4 overtime loss in Montreal.

They've also had some duds, like the 5-3 home loss to Atlanta, the 4-1 drubbing in Vancouver and the blowout loss at home to San Jose that got them started on this path.

One problem has been consistent throughout.

"Obviously our biggest weakness is that we are not getting any secondary scoring," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We just aren't creating enough."

That was the Rangers' biggest problem last season and it was supposed to go away with Tortorella and his aggressive forechecking system now in play. But lack of secondary scoring appears to be haunting this team once again.

Over this 13-game stretch, 15 players have combined for just 30 goals (2.31 per game). The Rangers have had nights when they scored four and five, but they have also been held to two or fewer in eight of the 13 games.

Gaborik, who had both goals Tuesday night to give him 15 on the season, is getting his with 9 goals over the stretch, but the rest of the scoring has been sporadic.

Ales Kotalik has just 1 goal in the last 10 games. Sean Avery hasn't scored since potting two against Toronto on Oct. 12, a span of 14 games. Before breaking his hand, Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored in 10 games and before suffering his concussion Chris Drury had just 2 goals all season.

Christopher Higgins has only 2 goals and Ryan Callahan just 3. Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto had 4 goals in his first nine games, but none in the last 12. Even Vinny Prospal has just 1 goal and 5 points in his last nine games.

"We're getting chances, but I think we have to try to hold onto the puck a little more in the offensive zone," Gaborik said. "We want it. We may be holding our sticks too tight."

An old problem surfaced again Tuesday when the Rangers struggled to get shots on goal.

They had 136 shots over their last four games after putting just 66 on goal in their previous three, but they managed to get only 20 shots through to Capitals' goalie Semyon Varlamov, including just 11 through the first two periods.

"I think a lot of things stem from getting the puck in their zone," Redden said. "It starts from our end, where we get good passes, chip it in and forecheck. It is not just shots, it is creating momentum. We just have to rely on the simple little plays to create chances for ourselves."

Tortorella said the forechecking, which is supposed to be a key component of his aggressive system, has been inconsistent.

"The one thing we are trying to work on is to develop more of a forechecking attitude," the coach said. "We had it at times (Tuesday) and others we didn't."

The Rangers will have off Wednesday, but they'll have two days of practice in preparation for their next game, Saturday at home against Florida.

They will try to not let their frustration get the better of them. It's too early for that.

"You have to be positive and you have to think you'll turn this around," Lundqvist said. "We had a big win the other night (in Ottawa) and we just need to have a couple in a row to get going. Now we're back to square one again. It's important that we don't get too negative."

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