The New York Rangers’ struggles reached a new low with their worst defensive performance in nearly 16 years. Their defense didn’t fare much better in its last trip to New Jersey.
The Rangers look to avoid both their fifth straight loss overall and their fifth consecutive road defeat when they return to the Prudential Center on Monday to face the Devils.
As it faces a team it trails by six points in the Atlantic Division race, New York (29-19-5) will attempt to rebound from Friday’s 10-2 drubbing in Dallas. Trailing by two entering the final period, the Rangers gave up six unanswered goals and allowed an opponent to reach double digits for the first time since a 10-4 defeat to Pittsburgh on April 9, 1993.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” captain Chris Drury said. “It was embarrassing, humiliating, and it was awful.”
New York’s 8-5 defeat at New Jersey on Dec. 12 followed a similar pattern.
The Rangers tied that contest at 5-all with 9:42 remaining, but the Devils responded 11 seconds later and scored twice more over the following 3 1/2 minutes.
New York bounced back with a three-game win streak, but a 7-8-3 mark since then has pushed the Rangers out of first place in the Atlantic. After going 0-3-1 in their last four games, New York is closer to being out of the postseason entirely - five points in front of ninth-place Florida - than it is to the division lead.
With Henrik Lundqvist out with the flu, Stephen Valiquette made only his second start in the past month Friday and yielded all 10 goals on 39 shots. Lundqvist’s status for Monday is not known, but he is 14-4-4 with a 1.87 goals-against average versus the Devils.
Neither goaltender has received much help lately from New York’s offense, which has scored five times in the last four games and is averaging 1.82 goals over the last 11 contests. Nikolai Zherdev tallied the Rangers’ only goals in the loss to Dallas.
New Jersey (33-17-3) holds a four-point lead over second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic, but has dropped two of its last three games. The Devils fell 3-1 to Los Angeles on Saturday to begin a five-game homestand.
“I wasn’t pleased at all with the way we’ve played at home,” said New Jersey coach Brent Sutter, whose team is 15-10-1 at home compared with 18-7-2 on the road. “We don’t find that on the road. We’ll have to correct it.”
The Devils have split four meetings this season with the Rangers but have won the past two, including a 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27 - the most recent meeting overall.