The New York Rangers are searching for the offense that brought them three early wins, while the New Jersey Devils are looking for enough to get their first.
Recent history says the Rangers might have a better chance to snap out of their brief funk when the Devils visit Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
New York (3-2-0) has owned its neighbor across the Hudson River since the start of 2014, stringing together six wins with a wide gap on the scoreboard at 26-10. The Rangers swept last season’s four-game series with a 17-7 scoring advantage, but they could use some of that offense for this season’s first matchup.
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New York put up 12 goals in three wins but has scored just once in back-to-back losses. After making good on 12 of their 81 shots for a 14.8 shooting percentage through three games, the Rangers have scored on one of 66 shots in the last two.
New York’s power play is 1 for 14 and has failed on five chances in each of the last two games. Full strength hasn’t been any better as the lone goal in losses to Winnipeg and Montreal came short-handed from Mats Zuccarello.
"We’re not doing anything right now," said coach Alain Vigneault. "It’s a combination of everything."
The lack of production from Rick Nash and Chris Kreider isn’t helping. After scoring a career-high 42 goals last season, Nash has yet to notch his first despite a team-high 19 shots. Kreider was New York’s second-leading scorer with 21 goals in 2014-15, tied with the retired Martin St. Louis, but is 0 for 11 on his chances. They have three assists combined.
Take away rookie Oscar Lindberg’s four goals and Zuccarello’s three and the rest of New York’s roster has six.
When asked if he was concerned with Nash and Kreider’s goose eggs following a 3-0 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday, Vigneault shifted the focus ahead – maybe a bit too far.
"I’m going to take a look at this game and we’re going to refocus and get ready for San Jose," said Vigneault, whose team hosts the Sharks on Monday night.
The Devils (0-3-1) have been easy to overlook. They last opened with this record through four games in 2001-02, following that with a six-game winning streak.
They have six goals and have been held to one in three of four games. New Jersey’s lone point came on Friday when Adam Henrique forced overtime with a power-play goal late in the third period of an eventual 2-1 shootout loss to San Jose.
”That was one of the better games for us,” first-year coach John Hynes said. ”Is it good enough yet? No. It is a step in the right direction.”
The Rangers will have Henrik Lundqvist in net to try to slow the progression. Lundqvist has won five straight starts against New Jersey with a 1.59 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
Cory Schneider was as bad against the Rangers last season as Lundqvist has been good against the Devils. New Jersey’s netminder went 0-3-1 with an .876 save percentage while starting all four contests.