One Bad Spell Sinks Rangers Again

Islanders prevail in shootout after Rangers blow early lead

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    It doesn't take much to let a game get away from you.

    On Tuesday night, the Rangers dominated the Bruins for 52 minutes and then collapsed at the end of regulation, allowing three goals and forcing the game to overtime. 

    The Rangers picked up two points by winning the shootout, but the point they gave the Bruins is the kind of thing that can come back to haunt you when the playoff seeds are handed out. That would be a painful price to play for a momentary loss of focus. 

    Not nearly as painful as if Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders plays a role in knocking the Rangers down a peg, however. They were on the road against the Bruins, but at the Garden for Thursday's temporary breakdown that undid all their good work. 

    The Rangers dominated the first period, grabbing a 2-0 lead while barely allowing a shot from the Islanders over the 20 minutes. And then they came out of the locker room as if they spent the intermission having all of the energy drained from their bodies. 

    The Isles scored 29 seconds into the second period, killed off a 5-on-3 penalty and then scored twice more before eight minutes had passed by to completely turn the game around. The Rangers recovered for another goal, found their defensive footing and stopped the bleeding, but it was another costly lapse for a team that can't seem to get everything firing at the same time this season. 

    Galling as allowing the goals might have been, the most frustrating part of the game and the season remains the total failure of the power play unit. That 5-on-3 failure is something we've seen before, although never with quite the intense befuddlement that came from watching a highly skilled player like Brad Richards turn the puck over every time it found its way to his stick. 

    Richards' play on the point during power plays has been unimpressive in the extreme and he hasn't been that much better on even strength. John Tortorella finally reached his breaking point on Thursday, benching Richards and moving Brian Boyle up in the order in his return from his own benching.

    The issue with Richards isn't effort or desire, but execution and that can be a much harder nut to crack. Is the issue mental or physical? Is Richards still struggling to find his groove after the lockout or is the issue deeper than that? 

    With a quarter of the year gone, the Rangers surely hoped they'd have more answers than questions at this point. Richards' benching makes that impossible since the team is still searching for a mix that puts them where they want to be. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.