Henrik Lundqvist sat at his stall Sunday night and had the look of a man still desperately searching for answers and finding nothing but questions at every turn.
This was a few short moment after the Rangers completed a pulsating, 4-3 come-from-behind shootout victory over Calgary. The win was their first after dropping the first four games during a franchise-record stretch of nine in a row at the Garden.
“It was just a big relief to finally get two points,” Lundqvist said. “It's a big win for us. We are really disappointed with where we are but we can't put too much pressure on ourselves. We just have to go out and play our game and take it game-by-game.”
The Rangers (16-17-1) find themselves 10th in the East, fourth in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the wild-card race as the Penguins come calling Wednesday night.
“We just have to worry about the games coming up,” Derek Dorsett said. “We have a couple days to recover [from the Calgary game] and get to the drawing board and work on some things that we still need to work on. We have to take it day-by-day and get as many wins as we can here at home before Christmas.”
As desperately needed as Sunday night’s win was, the Rangers do not view it as a panacea. There are still troubling issues, most notably falling behind early. On Sunday, Calgary had first period leads of 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 at the intermission.
Instead, they view the win against the Flames as a start.
“There were quite a few moments that tested us,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were down by two early and had a [penalty] kill to make at a critical time. We found a way, twice, to come back in this game which is something we haven’t done very often this year. There are quite a few elements that, hopefully, we can build on.
“I think there are a few elements: the fact that we did come back twice, the fact that I thought defensively we played another strong game and the last four games we haven’t given the opposition more than 12 scoring [chances] against. We will try and build on this and get ready for Wednesday’s game.”
The Penguins enter the nationally televised match without three vital cogs. Left wing James Neal will be serving the fifth and final game of a five-game suspension for kneeing Boston left wing Brad Marchand in the first period of the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Penguins on Dec. 7, and defenseman Brooks Orpik is out indefinitely following post-concussion symptoms after being attacked by Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton in the loss. Thornton was suspended 15 games by the NHL on Friday, but announced through the NHLPA Monday he was going to appeal the punishment.
Norris Trophy-finalist Kris Letang was placed on injured reserve Monday morning.
Still, at 24-10-1, the Penguins lead both the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division. Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 47 points and is tied for third in the league with 19 goals. Evgeni Malkin’s 32 assists is most in the NHL. Beleaguered goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury leads the NHL with 19 wins and is tied for the league lead with three shutouts.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.