The second verse was the same as the first.

 

All of the improvements the Rangers appeared to make in winning three of their last four games dissipated in a stultifying 3-0 loss to the Penguins Thursday night at the Garden.

 

“It was a terrible game,” said Henrik Lundqvist. The reigning Vezina winner stopped 26-of-29-shots. “It’s not a lot of action. Five-on-five [and] special teams were key. A lot of time that would be the difference and they won with special teams.”

 

The loss to the Atlantic Division rivals was their second in as many games this season, and sixth in eight games dating back to last season. Evgeni Malkin’s bomb from the half wall 84 seconds in was all the Penguins would need, although James Neal (26 seconds) and Simon Despres (10:23) added third-period markers.

 

The three goals lasted because last night’s match was a carbon copy of the 6-3 home opening loss on Jan. 20. The Penguins would not allow the Rangers much in the way of puck possession or zone time, and the Blueshirts could not effectively navigate the neutral zone as Pittsburgh clogged the middle of the ice. All conspired to produce an easy 28-save shutout for Tomas Vokoun.

“They sit in that neutral zone,” Marc Staal said. “They just kind of wait and hang out. We couldn’t really find any speed through the offensive zone or on the rushes”

It did not help their cause that the Rangers gave the Penguins six power plays, while falling to 3-for-28 on the season with the man advantage. Collectively, the Rangers do not believe there is an overemphasis on getting the puck to Rick Nash. However, during his 3:22 of ice time on the power play last night, Nash routinely carried the puck up ice instead of Michael Del Zotto or Brad Richards.

When the Rangers did gain the zone on the power play, Pittsburgh overplayed Nash. Of his three shots on goal, one came on the man advantage.

“I don’t know. I don’t feel that [we are forcing it to Nash]. But maybe it looks like that from up top. I’m not sure. It’s a different view from up there. We’re trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to make a good play to get the guy open,” Dan Girardi said.

“Simple is better, I think. One or two passes and get the puck to the net when there’s two guys in front and bang in some rebounds.”

Neal’s goal — his fifth of the season — came on a power play after the Rangers were penalized for too many men on the ice. It marked the third time in three games an opponent scored a power play goal off of that specific penalty.

“Not paying attention,” head coach John Tortorella said of the too many men on the ice penalty. “It’s fairly easy to know what guy you’re going to take coming off the ice, and it hurts us again tonight.”

Also prevalent through the match was a complete lack of flow and emotion. The former can be attributed to the combined 10 power plays but the later is a cause for concern considering the rivalry between the two franchises. The team would not blame the dispassion on the absence of captain Ryan Callahan, who is out 10-to-14 days with a shoulder subluxation.

“There’s not enough. I can sum it up [with] sloppy. Didn’t make passes. Didn’t make plays. We just didn’t make it too tough on their goalie. That’s why he gets a shutout,” Richards said. “Obviously with [Callahan’s] energy and his hitting and his emotion he brings [it is a loss]. But we can’t pack it in. Every team has injuries and we have to figure out a way to come out better than that.”



Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.