Chris Kelly celebrates a goal as Brad Richards skates off in the background. Credit: Getty Images
Entering the back-to-back games against the Flyers and Bruins, the Rangers had an opportunity to solidify their Eastern Conference playoff standing. Instead, consecutive losses as the March 5 trade deadline draws closer may force general manager Glen Sather to make decisions about his roster, specifically captain Ryan Callahan.
With speculation on Callahan's immediate future seemingly growing by the minute, the Rangers completed their lost weekend Sunday night at the Garden with a 6-3 loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins. The loss was also the third in three regular-season games against the Bruins, who eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in five games last season.
"That's two losses back-to-back," Callahan said. "We have to have a consistent 60 [minutes]."
The Rangers fell to 33-26-3 and hold a one point lead over No. 8 seed Detroit and No. 8 seed Washington, which both have 68 points. The Rangers don't play again until Wednesday, when they host the Maple Leafs, and could be passed in the standings by the Red Wings, who will play the Devils Tuesday night. The Capitals don't play again until Wednesday when they visit the Flyers.
The loss was also the third in three regular season games against the Bruins, who eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in five games last season.
"Against Boston it's about winning the battles in front of both nets," said Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 27-of-33 shots. "They are really good around the net making quick plays and getting to loose pucks."
By the time the Rangers drop the puck against the Leafs they will know whether Callahan will finish the 2013-14 season on Broadway. The unrestricted free agent has been engaged in less-than-fruitful contract negotiations with the organization, and his name has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors.
Much like Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia, what vexed the Rangers was their inability to take advantage of opportunities. Despite holding a decided advantage in shots on goal (20-9) and attempted shots (31-19), the Rangers went into the first intermission tied 1-1 with the Bruins. J.T. Miller opened the scoring 3:20 into the match on a breakaway, but Jarome Iginla drew the Bruins even with 1:53 left in the period.
"They were able to capitalize on their opportunities," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We weren't able to capitalize on ours."
It all fell apart in the second as Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg scored 5:30 apart to put Boston ahead 3-1. Brad Richards' 16th goal of the season drew the Rangers within one, at 3-2, with 3:07 left in the second but Gregory Campbell's shorthanded goal 9:04 into the third pushed the lead back up to two.
Ryan McDonagh's power-play goal with 4:42 was as close as the Rangers would get. Milan Lucic completed the scoring with his 19th goal with 1:36 left in the game.
"We played a great [first] period and just didn't get enough to show for it," Richards said. "It just hasn't been the solid 60 [minutes] that we had going into the [Olympic] break. There have been some bounces that have gone against us."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.