Alain Vigneault did not mince words.
Not after what he had bore witness to for 183 minutes and seven seconds spanning three games, two arenas and two countries.
“By my estimation one player that’s on top of his game,” Vigneault said after the Rangers dropped their third straight game, a soporific 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils in a Sunday afternoon matinee at the Garden.
“That’s Henrik Lundqvist.”
Following three straight wins to open the season, the Rangers enter this week with 3-2-1 mark and will play four games in seven days. After Monday night’s tilt against the Sharks, the Rangers host Arizona on Thursday, travel to Philadelphia Saturday before returning home Sunday for Calgary.
“We’re not pressing any panic button by any means but it needs to be addressed right now,” Dan Girardi said. “We have to stop the bleeding at three [games].
“We’re trying to find ways to win.”
Scoring goals would be a good start, as the Rangers have scored a grand total of two goals in the three losses to Winnipeg, Montreal and the Devils. A deeper analysis reveals the triumvirate of Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Rick Nash have combined for exactly one goal and four assists for five points.
“You’ve got to be on top of your game. It should be quite obvious to our players at this time that we are not on top of ours and we need to find our game,” Vigneault said. “We need to make more plays both defensively and offensively right now.”
And how would he suggest his team go about that task?
“If I had the answer I would have fixed it by now,” Vigneault said . “I’m sure the players have their theory.”
One of Vigneault’s players, Derek Stepan, suggested the best way for the Rangers to right their ship is to stay united.
“We had some looks to bury some goals and that would’ve made a huge difference,” Stepan said. “We just weren’t able to do it. A big thing we have to do is stay confident. You can’t starting fighting it. As soon as you do that it’s going to get worse. We just have to get better each day and be a confident group.”
So it is into this maelstrom that Anthony Duclair and his Arizona Coyotes mates travel to the Garden for his first game against his ex-team since the Mar. 1 trade that sent ‘The Duke’ to the desert for Keith Yandle.
Duclair figures to be a key component for an Arizona franchise engaged in the embryonic stages of a rebuild. And while five games is a small sample size, he has flashed the skill that led the Rangers to select him 80th overall in the 2013 draft. Duclair has four goals and six points in Arizona’s first five games this season.
Moreover, in 23 NHL games with the Rangers and the Coyotes, Duclair has recorded 13 points (five goals and eight assists).