The alarm clock is ringing. Loudly.
"It's a big wake-up call for us," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said Sunday night after a disturbingly bleak showing on all counts in a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Madison Square Garden that was uglier than the score indicates.
After a closed-door team meeting, a frustrated Henrik Lundqvist took it further. "It could be our second or third wake-up call," he said, referencing the Oct. 27 game against the Minnesota Wild, when a desperate five-goal third period erased a 3-0 deficit and salvaged a 5-4 win.
"When the energy is not there, it's hard to play this game," he said. "Even though it's a back-to-back, you need that emotion to play this game aggressively."
With the Rangers trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes, assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson was quoted by MSG Network's John Giannone as saying: "Collectively, that could be the worst two periods I have seen since I got here, and that is a lot of games. Hopefully, that is a low point for us. We are leaving it to the leadership to rally the troops. We are not competing at a level that we need to. It is not about X's and O's. We are getting crushed by Edmonton in our building, and that is embarrassing."
Little changed, however, as the Rangers (6-6-2) had no shots on goal for the first half of the third period. They finished with only 21 shots on Viktor Fasth in their second straight regulation loss.
Teddy Purcell scored an empty-netter with 1:27 left to seal it. The teetering Rangers have collected only four points in their last five games.
"It's no secret tonight was nowhere close to the way you should play a hockey game. Not even in the same ballpark," said Derek Stepan, who blamed himself for the first goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in front at 3:19 of the first period. "It's just bad all around. It doesn't matter at home or where it's at. It could have easily been 6-, 7-1. Hank stood in there and made some big saves for us."
Still missing three regular defensemen and admittedly a little worn down, the Rangers had a dreadful time against the speedy Oilers, especially their top line of Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and former Ranger Benoit Pouliot.
"We were chasing pucks and losing battles," Staal said. "They were quicker than us. You make it easy on yourself by our team-game play, and our team game was horrible."
Pouliot, who left Broadway for a four-year, $20-million deal with the Oilers, had two points, including the goal on an odd-man rush that provided the 2-1 lead. He beat Lundqvist from the right circle at 8:29 of the second period.
Carl Hagelin, whose shot off a pass from Kevin Hayes deflected in off defenseman Jeff Petry's skate at 12:34 of the first period, had the only goal for the Rangers.
"To come up with this type of disappointing performance is . . . the understatement of the week," said coach Alain Vigneault, who promised evaluations and adjustments. "Our whole group needed to respond better [to the 5-4 loss in Toronto on Saturday]."
There is dangerous territory ahead. They are looking down the barrel at the red-hot Penguins (10-2-1) twice in the next week, starting Tuesday night.
"The next game, we're probably playing the best team in the league, and we need to be right on on all the things we're doing," said Lundqvist (31 saves). "It's going to be one of our biggest tests."