Frustration spilling over for slumping Rangers

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) celebrates a scored goal against the New York Rangers in the second period at KeyBank Center.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Frustration is growing inside the New York Rangers’ locker room following a fourth-straight loss on Tuesday night to the Sabres in Buffalo where head coach David Quinn got on his team for its commitment level — most notably after allowing a second-period goal just as their power play expired.

“Boy did our bench get demoralized. There wasn’t any life to our bench,” he said. “You’re not going to win games like that. We better cure this in a hurry.”

A visibly flattened Rangers team couldn’t generate a thing following rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller’s go-ahead goal late in the first period to make it a 2-1 game; a concerning showing against a Buffalo team that was predicted to finish near the bottom of this year’s East Division.

But the team more concerned about making the pretty play instead of the fundamental one continues to languish near the bottom of the standings. They’re dead-last in the East Division through six games.

“I think we have good moments in the game but, I don’t know if we shy away from our game, but we make it too complicated at times,” forward Mika Zibanejad said. “When you do that, you start risking and making those risk plays to try and get something to happen rather than stay patient and keep working.”

To start the season, they’ve dropped each of their three games away from Madison Square Garden this season, which came in succession as a part of the Rangers’ current four-game road trip that ends Thursday night against the Sabres.

“You don’t win games in this league without being resilient and we have to find a way,” veteran forward Chris Kreider said. “I know it’s a longer road trip, but the travel isn’t that crazy, it’s not like we’re playing back-to-backs. We have to find a way to rip one on the road. It’s the hardest thing to do but we have to find a way.

“We have to hate losing in that room. We have to nip it in the bud right now and we have to play a no-doubter next game against Buffalo. A full 60 minutes and we have to show that we do, in fact, hate losing. We can talk all day about it but we have to put in a full 60.”

“You hope that from the minute the season starts, everybody hates losing to the point that they’ll give their all mentally and physically,” Rangers head coach David Quinn added.

The Rangers’ swoon has been headlined by a lack of production from the top two lines. Zibanejad, who had 40 goals last season, and the play-making Ryan Strome have a combined three points through the first six games. Kreider only has two goals and superstar Artemi Panarin hasn’t scored since potting two against the Islanders during the second game of the season.

“The obvious answer is yes,” Quinn said when asked if his top two lines are struggling. “We’re not getting enough from our top-six for sure.”

“We’re not winning games and we’re supposed to contribute,” Zibanejad added. “We just have to figure a way out of this.”

In a shortened 56-game season, the path out of a slump has to come soon, or else the Rangers will find themselves in an insurmountable hole. In an eight-team division, only the top four teams make the playoffs and they’re already six points off the pace.

“It’s something we’re going to talk about as a staff and with our captains and leadership,” Quinn said. “It has to stop right now.”

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