Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he felt his team's compete level was not where it needed to be, and the results reflected that in a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
"We had no execution," Vigneault said after the game. "We couldn't make a pass tonight. That's all about individual preparation and getting yourself ready to execute. We didn't win a lot of puck battles and that's will. That's on you to be ready and to compete for pucks. We didn't win a lot and that's why we spent a lot of time in our zone. When we were in our zone, we couldn't make a 10-foot pass."
The Rangers had their chances against Carey Price, especially in the second period when the deficit was just one. Brandon Pirri, Pavel Buchnevich, Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes each had opportunities to tie the game, but could not capitalize.
But New York couldn't find twine and Artturi Lehkonen's goal 8:48 into the middle frame extended Montreal's lead to 2-0, which was too much for the Blueshirts to overcome.
"Every one of their goals was a momentum takeaway, or whatever you want to call it," Ryan McDonagh said. "It's frustrating. We keep saying all the same things in here. We don't have a lot of time to work on things in practice and work on your game, so you have to make sure you're doing whatever you can mentally to prepare and physically, and get yourself ready. Engage and battle and play hard for one another."
Chris Kreider scored his 24th goal of the season 1:44 into the third to get the Rangers to within two, but Price shut the door the rest of the way.
Montreal opened the scoring on a goal by Shea Weber 12:51 into the game. The defenseman sent a wrist shot on goal that deflected off Rangers defenseman Adam Clendening and into the net for his 15th of the season.
Andrew Shaw put the Canadiens up 3-0 with 1:23 remaining in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist stopped an Alex Galchenyuk shot and the puck went behind the net. Lundqvist, though, thought he had the puck allowing Shaw to wrap around the net and tucked the puck into the empty net.
"The stick hit me before the play, but then the puck hit the mask," Lundqvist said. "It looked like it was in front of me somewhere so I was looking. Nobody was talking and that's a thing we need to work on - to talk and help each other out - but I didn't find it until it was too late."
Jordie Benn put the game out of a reach with a goal at 6:58 of the third to make it 4-1.
The Rangers' offense, which propelled them for most of the season, has struggled as of late. New York has scored two goals or fewer in eight of their last nine games, with the Rangers going 4-4-1 during that stretch.
"It's been two or three games we've been struggling to create offense," said Derek Stepan, who had an assist on Kreider's goal. "We always talk about the best defense is playing offense. If you don't spend time playing offense, you're going to do a lot of defending. The last three or four games we've done too much of it."
With the Rangers embarking on a four-game road trip starting Monday in Tampa, Vigneault said more is needed from his top players as New York begins their final 17 games of the regular season.
"Right now we've got quite a few guys that are fighting it; there's no doubt," Vigneault said. "A couple of guys' games are not very good, but that's still not a reason to execute to the level that we did tonight.
"It's still not a reason to lose the number of one-on-one battles that we lost tonight," Vigneault added. "There has to be a reality check here. We've got some tough games coming up, and we're going to have to be a lot better than we were today."