Henrik Lundqvist has been quick to accept blame for the New York Rangers' up-and-down efforts in the early season.
Coach John Tortorella's club, though, has proven plenty consistent against the New York Islanders of late, especially at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers try for an eighth consecutive home win over the Islanders as these Atlantic Division rivals meet for the first time this season Thursday night.
While big things were expected from the Rangers (4-5-0) after finishing with an Eastern Conference-best 109 points last season, they've struggled to get going. They have compiled a 1-4-0 record against division foes, converted 3 of 35 chances (8.6 percent) on the power play and allowed at least one power-play goal in eight straight games.
"It's not the start that we were looking for, personally and as a group," said Lundqvist, who's surrendered at least three goals in five of eight starts. "We have to work hard and believe we can get there. We have been there a few times, a couple of games here and there. Like you said though, we need consistency to put a lot of games together and it starts with me."
The Rangers dropped to 0-4-0 when scoring fewer than two goals Tuesday in a 3-1 loss at New Jersey. Lundqvist stopped 19 of 22 shots and rookie Chris Kreider provided all the offense with his first regular-season goal and point for New York, which went 0 for 5 on the power play.
"We have some guys on our hockey club that are really playing hard, and we have some guys that look scared and tentative," Tortorella said. "I'll tell you right now we're not waiting. We don't play careful hockey."
A matchup against the Islanders (4-4-1) could be coming at just the right time. The Rangers have gone 10-3-1 in the last 14 contests in this series, taking all seven home meetings by a combined 31-10 margin. Lundqvist has started six of those games, posting a 1.32 goals-against average and three shutouts.
The Islanders surely aren't looking forward to facing the reigning Vezina Trophy winner after going 0 for 7 on the man advantage in each of their last two games. Two days after falling 3-0 to New Jersey, the Islanders suffered a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Despite coming up short, coach Jack Capuano was pleased with his team's response after falling behind 3-0 early in the third period. Michael Grabner scored his team-leading fifth goal before Brad Boyes added his third 35 seconds later.
"We came back and got into the game," Capuano said. "I'm happy with the energy and the work ethic our guys showed. We put up 30-plus shots against a good hockey team. It's not good enough, I realize that."
The Islanders outshot the Penguins 34-26, including a 24-14 edge over the first two periods.
"We have to get shots on the net," captain Mark Streit said. "We need to get to the rebounds first. I think we can improve. We had a lot of chances ... but at the end of the day, we have to score on the power play."
Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 22 of 25 shots Tuesday, is 1-3-1 with a 2.93 GAA in his last five games against the Rangers. He's yielded at least three goals in all but one of those games.
Nabokov has gone 3-0-1 on the road this season despite a 3.44 GAA. If in goal, he'll need to be wary of Marian Gaborik, who's tallied 17 goals and 11 assists in his last 18 matchups with the Islanders.
Gaborik, though, has gone without a point over his last four games, matching his longest drought from all of last season.
The Associated Press News Service
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