New York, the surprise leader atop the Atlantic Division, has dropped a season-high five in a row. Eastern Conference-leader Carolina has dropped three in a row, including one each in overtime and in a shootout.
The Rangers have lost three straight and four of the last five meetings with the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.
New York has not scored more than two goals in a game since a 6-1 win March 1 over Philadelphia. It has managed just two points since, both in losses against Atlanta.
The latest loss came Sunday when the Rangers squandered a two-goal third-period lead before falling 3-2 in overtime to the Thrashers.
“I thought we were going to win,” said Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr, who leads the NHL with 44 goals. “Some of the calls were tough against us, some calls were fair. We had a 2-0 lead. We should have been able to win the hockey game.”
The return of rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from a two-game absence after the Olympic break hasn’t helped the Rangers produce a win despite excellent statistics.
After leading Sweden to the gold medal, Lundqvist has a 1.96 goals-allowed average and .927 save percentage, but is just 0-2-2.
The Rangers had won seven straight before their current skid, which is their longest since losing eight straight from March 12-25, 2004.
“It’s not good for us and it’s not going to get better until we win,” Jagr said. “I’m hoping it’s not too late to stop it.”
After missing five weeks with a knee injury, rookie right wing Petr Prucha returned and drew an assist Sunday.
The Hurricanes return home after a five-game road swing capped off by a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday to Florida.
“It was a couple of breakdowns that cost us,” said Carolina coach Peter Laviolette, whose team led by two 1:09 into the third period.
After allowing a total of three goals in two wins following the Olympic break, goaltender Martin Gerber has struggled. He has allowed 10 goals in a shootout loss to Philadelphia and two setbacks to Florida.
Leading scorer Eric Staal has not had a goal in his last four games, his longest drought since an eight-game run from Dec. 28-Jan. 13.
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