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Nash problems personify Rangers

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

NEW YORK — Anger was the prevailing sentiment for the New York Rangers.

Anger at falling behind 3-1 to the Penguins in the best-of-seven second-round playoff series. Anger at an incomprehensibly poor effort in a game that coach Alain Vigneault viewed as New York's most important of the season. And anger that many of the 18,006 in attendance at Madison Square Garden began to treat Rick Nash in much the same fashion as New York Yankees fans reacted to Alex Rodriguez's repeated postseason failings in pinstripes.

“I'd prefer, right now, if our fans were supportive,” Vigneault said after the 4-2 loss Wednesday night. “It might not look it, but we're trying our guts out here. We're trying to put our best game on the ice. We're trying our best. I'd prefer it if we'd have support.

“Ultimately, fans can do what they want.”

So, no, it will not be an especially genial Rangers squad that enters Consol Energy Center for Game 5 Friday night. By any measure, New York has been dominated by the Penguins in the series, having been outscored by an aggregate 11-5 in the first four games, including back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3. Breaking it down further, the Penguins have outscored the Rangers in 5-on-5 play (8-5), on the power play (1-0), shorthanded (1-0) and with an empty-net (1-0).

Until Carl Hagelin scored 5:30 into the second period of Game 4, Marc-Andre Fleury had a shutout streak of 145:30. Over the course of the series, the Rangers have been outshot 113-99 and out-attempted 231-201.

“We didn't give them as much of a test to see where they're at,” Brad Richards said of a team one loss away from elimination.

The lack of tangible results prompted Rangers fans to boo Nash in the third period Wednesday night. The Rangers acquired Nash in a franchise-altering trade from Columbus on July 23, 2012, for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round draft pick that the Blue Jackets used on left wing Kerby Rychel.

Nash has not scored a goal in the 2014 playoffs despite leading the league with 45 shots on goal.

In the Game 4 loss, Nash made two glaring mistakes, misfiring on a 3-on-1 attempt, putting a shot into the protective netting, and committed an egregious neutral zone turnover which directly led Brandon Sutter's short-handed goal.

Afterward, following a closed-door team meeting, the Rangers collectively defended Nash.

“We're not the 15th team in the league,” Richards said. “We're in the second round of the playoffs. I understand sports and where it's all at. So does he. So does everybody in here. But it's not one person. It's the whole team. As a team we didn't play tonight. For one guy or two guys to get booed, or whatever it is, it's frustrating (for) the team. We all put our foot (in it) together.”

In 23 playoff games as a Ranger, Nash has one goal and eight assists. In 27 playoff games in his career, he has two goals and 10 assists.

Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.

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