A third period Rangers comeback fell just short Tuesday at The Garden, when New York scored three goals in the third period but ultimately fell, 7-6, to the Dallas Stars.
Mika Zibanejad scored two goals in his first game in two months and Derek Stepan added two of his own. Pavel Buchnevich finished the game with three points.
Stepan opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the game, but Dallas would score three before the first period came to a close.
The Stars would extend that to a 4-1 advantage before Zibanejad notched his first of the night and Buchenvich buried his fifth of the season just over two minutes later.
Video: DAL@NYR: Buchnevich pots deflection off end boards
But Dallas would answer just 48 seconds later when Patrick Sharp beat Henrik Lundqvist with a wrap around to make it 5-3. Dallas would score two more goals in a span of 1:47 to take a 7-3 lead into the third, and thus ending Lundqvist's night. as he was pulled for Magnus Hellberg.
The Rangers, though, would storm back in the final period with three goals in 4:15, starting with a power play goal by Chris Kreider, who buried a feed from Stepan to make it 7-4.
Video: DAL@NYR: Zibanejad scores second off redirect
Stepan would net his second of the night at 5:31 of the third, which was followed by Zibanejad's second of the night 1:55 later to get the Rangers to within a goal.
Zibanejad's line with Buchnevich and Rick Nash combined for three goals and four assists on the night.
"Other than the one where I thought they left the front of our net a little too quick, I thought they played a strong game," head coach Alain Vigneault said of the trio. "They had a lot of possession time, they had a lot of rush opportunities. For a first game back, I think it was a step in the right direction."
But despite 25 shots in the third period, the Rangers' comeback efforts would fall just short.
Lundqvist allowed seven goals and said after the game he needs to improve.
"It's tough," he said. "I feel like it's embarrassing, frustrating, and disappointing, at the same time. I spent the last 24 hours really working hard and trying to prepare for this game and you come out and get a pretty good start. Then our first period, there were a couple missed plays where they made us pay. Most goals were scored right in front. As a goalie, you need to just be more aware I guess. The bottom line is I need to find another level; it's not good enough."
While Lundqvist put the blame on his shoulders, his teammates were quick to defend him and said tonight's struggles were just as much their fault.
"It's terrible. Good teams don't leave their goalie out to dry like that," Stepan said. "That's just unacceptable. Simple stuff. It comes down to working hard and working smart. That's all we did in the third period."
Vigneault said his plan for Lundqvist moving forward is simple.
"He's going to play next game," Vigneault said. "He's going to play and he's going to try real hard and we're going to try and play better in front of him. This is a team. We're all going to stick with one another and do what we can here to get out of this three-game" losing streak.
While positives could be difficult to come by after a loss, Dan Girardi said he was hopeful the team would learn from a strong third period.
"When we had some pride in the third and played hard, we just mucked and grinded in their end and just got pucks to the net and forechecking," Girardi said. "It wasn't like we were taking chances. We were playing the right way and we got three goals and almost came back. That's the takeaway we need from tonight."