If the New York Rangers' first game without Ryan Callahan is any indication, they better hope their captain needs only 10 days to recover from his partially dislocated left shoulder instead of the full two weeks.
Without Callahan, the Rangers were blanked for the first time all season and had a lethargic effort in their 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. The Rangers couldn't get it going offensively and their power play proved to be futile.
"That was probably the worst we've played all year, collectively," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
The Rangers' offense hasn't been great all season, even with Callahan, but losing him puts them in an even more dire situation. They have just 16 goals on the season, two from Callahan, and excluding their top line and Callahan, the rest of the roster has just six goals. Thursday night, they played what players described as a sloppy, terrible and tentative game, and their offense stalled once again.
They came out flat with just six shots in the first period and never could truly find a rhythm against a Pittsburgh squad that has now beaten the Rangers twice at Madison Square Garden this season. Aside from a couple of shots off the post, the Rangers didn't create enough clean looks.
It was one of those games in which the Rangers could have used a high-energy player like Callahan to perhaps create an opportunity out of nowhere and galvanize the squad.
"There's not enough [chances]," center Brad Richards said. "I can sum it up as just sloppy. Couldn't make passes. Couldn't make plays. Just a mess, we didn't make it too tough on their goalie and that's why he had a shutout."
On the power play, the Rangers once again had a dismal showing, especially without their top power-play man in Callahan. Callahan has two of the team's three power-play scores on the season, as he finds ways to score by placing himself in front of the net.
With an 0-for-4 performance Thursday, the Rangers dropped to a miserable 3-for-28 on the power play this season. In what proved to be a game-changing moment, the Rangers nearly scored on their power play in the third as the shot ricocheted off the post, but in an unfortunate turn of events for them, the Penguins' penalty kill ended and it led to a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
"[Callahan is] very good in that position [in front of the net] for sure, but we thought we had some pretty good looks at times," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of the power play. "It wasn't consistent enough. We have two shots hit the post and had good looks. We just weren't connecting the dots."
Even though it's going to be hard to replace Callahan in the upcoming weeks, the Rangers don't want to use his absence as an excuse for poor play.
"We can't pack it in," Richards said. "Every team has injuries and we have to find a way to come out better than that."