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rangers

The Rangers Come Back Down to Earth

If Thursday night's win over Vancouver proved the Rangers could at least compete with the NHL's elite, last night's loss to Philadelphia showed they're still not quite ready to join their ranks. Three times this season the Rangers have played the Flyers, and three times now they've looked overmatched. Last night's 3–2 final doesn't really indicate how one-sided this game was until the final ten minutes: The Flyers, who'd opened up a 3–0 lead on a Mike Richards shorthanded goal 4:25 into the second, looked like a team that could compete for the Stanley Cup, while the Rangers, well, looked like a team playing its fourth game in six nights.

Save for a brawl midway through the second, only in the final ten minutes or so did the Rangers give the Garden crowd much to cheer for. (To that point, occasional Jets updates on the scoreboard drew the loudest cheers, and sometimes it was hard to tell whether the "boos" that followed Flyers saves came from orange-clad supporters of Brian Boucher or from frustrated Rangers fans.)

And if this all felt familiar, it was because they'd put themselves in a similar situation the night before in Montreal, falling behind by two (thanks, in part, to two Montreal power-play goals), closing to within one, then buzzing in the final minutes only to lose by a goal when their last-gasp efforts proved insufficient.

John Tortorella benched the slumping Marian Gaborik for long stretches of last night's game, and the team's scoring woes continue as well: They've yet to score more than two actual goals in a game (which is to say, we're not counting "goals" awarded to them for winning in a shootout) since the calendar turned to 2011. But this Rangers team also hasn't let their losing skids get out of hand this year — they've lost three straight only once, back during the opening week of the season — so perhaps this is as bad as it'll get. Which, all told, wouldn't be that bad.

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Photo: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images