NEW YORK -- So, when exactly will Rick Nash be back?
For a team lacking offensive punch of late -- three goals in the last three games -- the injured winger’s impending return is big news as the team looks ahead after Sunday’s 1-0 blanking by the LA Kings.
The Rangers generated more than enough offensively -- Kings netminder Ben Scrivens was forced to make 37 saves to earn his second straight shutout -- but couldn’t finish as their power play came up short and, as coach Alain Vigneault said, their ability to finish was lacking.
“Our execution was a little off tonight,” he said of his squad, which fell to .500 with the loss.
Like Scrivens, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was also terrific, but after a deflection goal in the middle frame from LA's Tyler Toffoli 1:23 into play, he had little margin for error and no help on the other end.
The Rangers failed to cash in on all five power-play attempts, including 50 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and committed a puzzling blunder elsewhere on special teams when winger Mats Zuccarello passed up a shot on a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush in the second period.
“We knew special teams was going to be a big part of this game,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 29 saves, “And it was. Just not in our favor.”
The Rangers entertained brief hope that an excellent shift from Dominic Moore ended with what would’ve been a game-tying goal with 2:41 left in regulation, but a video review clearly indicated Moore had directed the puck across the line with his skate in a “distinct kicking motion.”
The Rangers had plenty of chances earlier in the game to bury but couldn’t give Lundqvist any breathing room, as Scrivens locked it down in the opposing crease and recorded his third shutout in his first five starts as the Kings' new No. 1 netminder. Scrivens assumed the starting gig with Jonathan Quick on the shelf with a groin injury.
“You can say we [played well], but at the same time we didn’t score and that’s what it comes down to,” center Derek Stepan said. “You have to score a goal. Hank made some big saves for us at big times and we have to find a way to get one in the back of the net, especially when we are surging like that. We had some good looks.”
Meanwhile, the Rangers might get their star winger back as early as Tuesday as Nash continues to steadily progress from the concussion that has sidelined him for over five weeks.
Nash has not played since sustaining a head injury during the team’s 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 8, but he has been practicing regularly with the team over the past week.
Prior to Sunday’s loss, one made even more difficult considering the team’s triumphant (and rare) victory in Montreal on Saturday, associate coach Scott Arniel did not rule out the possibility of Nash being in the lineup Tuesday, when the Rangers host the Bruins at Madison Square Garden.
With three goals in the last three games, the Rangers can only hope he’s right.