Not for these New York Rangers.
“We are in a tough stretch,” Mats Zuccarello said after the Rangers were decisively outclassed by the Capitals, 7-3, Sunday night at the Garden. Dating back to Nov. 25, the Rangers have lost 11 of 14.
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“There is not too much to say. Everyone in here knows we have to be better.”
Going back to the 5-1 loss to Montreal on Nov. 25, the Rangers have been outscored by an aggregate 53-35.
“I know that this group knows how to defend and can defend,” Alain Vigneault said. “We are obviously not doing it at this point in time.”
Unlike earlier in the season in which the team’s structural flaws were being masked by superlative goaltending play, Henrik Lundqvist’s play has slipped—by his own admission.
Lundqvist was pulled for the second time in three games—and for the third time overall this season—against Washington. Lundqvist allowed five goals on 24 shots. The five goals against tied a season high for Lundqvist; he allowed five goals to Montreal on Nov. 25 and again in Edmonton on Dec. 11.
“I need to come up with that extra save,” Lundqvist said. He was replaced by Magnus Hellberg, who made his NHL debut in the third. Hellberg was called up from AHL Hartford Friday after the Rangers lost backup Antti Raanta to a head injury after he was struck by a shot in the first period of the 5-2 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 17.
“I don’t really have a good explanation, Lundqvist said. “When bad things happen we get out of structure a little bit and give up chances. I have to look at my own game. I can’t just look at the team game. I have to be better. I know that. We all know that. I think I had stretches through the last few games where I played well and I did the right things, but there are also times when I have to come up with that extra save and turn the game around. I am doing everything I can right now to get to that level. It’s a game where there are some open chances. I just have to deal with that, play it the right way and not question anything or my instincts.”
The Rangers have one game remaining before the Christmas break, Tuesday night at the Garden against Western Conference-worst Anaheim, and old friend Carl Hagelin. The Ducks are coming off of a 2-1 win over the Devils Saturday night, and played the Islanders at Barclays Center for the first time Monday.
“We have to get out of this stretch somehow,” Zuccarello said. “It is frustrating right now but at the same time nothing is going to get better if you keep thinking negatively. You have to stay positive and believe in each other and back each other up.
“The guys in the room, we have to be better. Everyone knows that.”