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Rangers still looking for answers

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- If the New York Rangers could bottle the effort they gave during most of Monday night's game against Pittsburgh and use it for their remaining 29 games, defenseman Marc Staal would feel pretty good about their playoff chances.

"I think we forechecked well, we were backchecking and we were good defensively," Staal told "The effort was there."

Only, as Staal also noted, it would be nice if the Rangers could score another goal or two. They could have used them Monday; instead, the sting of a 4-2 loss will linger at least until Wednesday, when they host Carolina.

That's three straight losses for the Rangers and six in their last eight games since an 8-1-3 stretch.

They finally broke their goal drought with Artem Anisimov's first of the night in the second period, their first in 156 minutes, 32 seconds. But the Rangers barely could sniff the net during nearly six consecutive minutes on the power play early in the third and then gave up back-to-back goals 60 seconds apart to seal their fate.

Evgeni Malkin scored on the power play just three and a half minutes after the Penguins killed off their third penalty in a row. Chris Conner scored the game-winner a minute later off a juicy rebound left by goalie Henrik Lundqvist (24 saves).

"I don't even know if we were in the zone for more than 30 seconds (on the power play)," Staal said. "Obviously that's frustrating and then we took a penalty after it and 15 seconds later they score. It's deflating. We couldn't get that next one on the power play to make them take chances. We have to get the next goal and we couldn't get it, so they made us pay. We have to get a stop, but we couldn't."

"We played much better as far as away from the puck and in our end zone. We have to find a way to win a game when we are up 2-1." -- John Tortorella

Rangers coach John Tortorella, who answered all of three questions before leaving his postgame press conference, agreed with Staal that the Rangers' effort was better Monday. Granted, it was pretty bad in their previous two losses -- 2-0 at Philadelphia and 6-0 at Montreal -- so, really, it only could improve.

However, the Rangers led 2-1 with just 10:45 to play in the game and came away with zero points. That's what bothered Tortorella.

"We played much better as far as away from the puck and in our end zone," Tortorella said. "We have to find a way to win a game when we are up 2-1."

Lundqvist bemoaned the fact that losses like Monday's are piling up for the Rangers.

They are now 4-6-3 in games that are tied after two periods and 4-9 in games decided by two goals. It's a far cry from 6-0, but this one maybe hurt even more because they had their chances.

"This one was painful," Lundqvist said. "We have had a bunch of these games this year. It could be a different story if we manage to win these games. We have a tough time winning games like this, but we definitely played a lot better than the last two games. That is a good thing."

What also was good for the Rangers was Anisimov, their rookie center from Russia, finally broke out of his prolonged slump. Anisimov didn't have a point in the previous 17 games, but his 2 goals Monday gave him 9 on the season.

"Although he has not put up a lot of numbers, he has really (played well)," Tortorella said. "He is one of the guys I am using quite a bit away from the puck, late in games. His defensive awareness has really improved. As he grows and gets stronger -- he is just a kid -- he is going to be a very good player."

The Rangers, though, could use him now. They could use more of his offense, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if a few other guys stepped up, too.

In the last 10 games, Marian Gaborik, who leads the team with 29 goals, has just 1, while Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan have 2. Sean Avery has only 1 assist over that span, and since returning from his knee injury eight games ago, Vinny Prospal has just 4 points.

The Rangers have been shut out four times since Prospal returned.

"It starts with my line," said Dubinsky, who centers Gaborik and Prospal on the top line. "We have to make sure we are doing our jobs and try and keep confident here. From now on we have to try and stay confident and believe in what we got here. We have to believe in what we can do and get over this."

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