The New York Rangers were in first place with a five-game win streak just a few days ago. While they are still atop the Atlantic Division, two straight embarrassing losses has them concerned.
The Rangers hope to avoid matching a season-high three-game skid Tuesday when they face the archrival New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
During their five-game run, the Rangers (18-12-4) were sound defensively and received excellent goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and Kevin Weekes. They outscored opponents 16-7 during the run, while Lundqvist and Weekes combined to stop 154 of 161 shots.
That streak, though, came to a crashing halt Saturday with a 9-2 loss at Toronto, as New York was outshot 32-13 and offered little support to Lundqvist, who surrendered eight goals on 24 shots before he was replaced by Weekes.
The Rangers, playing their seventh game in 11 nights, didn’t fare much better Sunday in a 6-1 home loss to New Jersey as Weekes allowed six goals on 28 shots.
A lack of discipline has become a problem for the Rangers, who have yielded eight power-play goals in the past three games after giving up that many in the previous seven contests.
“We have some soul searching,” said New York’s Brendan Shanahan, who is tied for the NHL lead with 22 goals. “I don’t think there is a whole lot of examination needed to know what went wrong the last 48 hours. It is pretty evident. We are a step slow all over the ice which leads to breakdowns, which leads to penalties, which leads to power-play goals for the other team.”
Nylander, who centers the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka, sat out with the flu, while Cullen missed his first game of the season with a sprained knee. Making matters worse was a strained groin suffered by defenseman Marek Malik, who left after the first period.
“The Islanders aren’t going to feel sorry for us,” Shanahan said about the injuries. “They aren’t going to dress eight in their lineup because we aren’t 100 percent. You have to make adjustments to your game and to your style to get the win. You have to take it as a test. The last two nights we haven’t done well with that.”
Islanders captain Alexei Yashin returned to the lineup Saturday after missing eight games with a knee injury and contributed a goal in a 6-0 rout of Atlanta.
“His coming back was big,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “Alexei is a big part of our team, and you know he’s missed when the guys keep asking when he’s coming back.”
Rick DiPietro made 37 saves for his second shutout of the season one night after he was pulled in a 7-4 loss at Pittsburgh.
“The way we played tonight is a good indication that we’re starting to grow as a team,” DiPietro said. “The shutout is nice, but I’m just happy to get the two points.”
DiPietro is 4-10-0 with a 4.00 goals-against average in 15 career games against the Rangers.
Right wing Miroslav Satan has started to heat up for the Islanders (16-12-3) after a slow start. He has five goals in his last seven games after scoring five times in his first 24 contests.
Satan has four goals in his last three games against the Rangers.
Viktor Kozlov had the first four-goal game of his career and the Islanders overcame Shanahan’s hat trick in a 7-4 victory at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 3.
The Isles have won the last two meetings after dropping five in a row.