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Bruins' skates in a rut

Recent slump continues with loss to Rangers in New York

NEW YORK -- When the Bruins lost to Carolina Saturday, they tried to find the silver lining by saying they had played significantly better -- especially in the second half -- and hoped to build on that heading into their meeting last night with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.


But, as they found out again, they're just not doing enough to get the job done. For the seventh time in their last 15 games, Boston lost. This time it was a 4-2 decision to the Rangers, their third straight defeat. They're now 2-7-5-1 in their last 15 outings as their slump continues.

Coach Mike Sullivan, who has kept a brave face throughout these trying times, looked ashen after this latest setback.

"Our go-to guys seem to have trouble finding the back of the net right now," said Sullivan. "I thought we had some great chances. It seems like we have to battle extremely hard to get any of the goals we get. We've just got to continue to work hard and battle and try to make our breaks.

"Obviously, we don't want to lose. We're trying to provide some solutions for our players out there to help them succeed. Without a doubt, it's a challenge. We're going through some adversity right now and it's not a lot of fun. We'll do everything we can to turn this thing around."

The Rangers came out strong, taking the first five shots of the game. One required a stellar save by Andrew Raycroft. Just 1:30 into the action, Eric Lindros sprung Matthew Barnaby on a breakaway. He tried to beat the rookie netminder with a forehand but Raycroft made the save with his right pad.

The next five shots belonged to Boston, one of which produced a power-play goal at 5:54. With Alex Kovalev off for high sticking, rookie Patrice Bergeron potted his seventh tally of the season. Brian Rolston rapped the puck away from Rangers forward Petr Nedved and it went to Joe Thornton in the slot. Thornton took a shot but it was stopped by Mike Dunham. However, Bergeron was outside the right post and tapped in the rebound for the 1-0 lead.

The next three goals belonged to New York. Bobby Holik, whose assignment was to shadow Thornton, pulled the Rangers even at 10:52 with his eighth of the year.

Darius Kasparaitis took a shot from the outside that hit the right post and ricocheted under Raycroft. A scramble ensued and Holik chipped it in to make it 1-1.

New York took the lead on Nedved's first strike at 12:38 when he used Bruins defenseman Hal Gill as a screen and snapped a shot from the left circle that beat Raycroft over the right shoulder.

The next goal came during a power play at 1:26 of the second. With P.J. Axelsson in the box for hooking, Nedved got his second of the night. The play started when right wing Jed Ortmeyer beat Bruins defenseman Dan McGillis, which nullified an icing call. Ortmeyer kicked the puck up the left boards to Jan Hlavac. Hlavac dished it to Kasparaitis at the left point and he passed it down to Nedved in the right circle. Nedved, who was battling with Axelsson, spun around in the inside edge of the circle and beat Raycroft to the far side and it was 3-1.

Axelsson closed the gap to one goal at 16:08, potting his third of the year. Bergeron had the puck at center ice on the right side. He saw Axelsson skating down center ice and fired a long lead pass that created a breakaway. Axelsson charged down the slot and beat Dunham with a forehander to the stick side.

Holik sealed the game with an empty-net goal with 46 seconds left.

No matter whom the opponent, it seems the Bruins' margin for error is thin and the line between winning and losing is even thinner.

"It just doesn't want to go in for us I guess," said Raycroft. "We've been so close the last five or six games. We just couldn't pull it out. It's unfortunate. We can't get a goal, but we have another game [tonight against Tampa Bay] and hopefully we can go away for Christmas on a good note."

Raycroft said although the club's morale has taken a hit, it's pretty good considering.

"I'm frustrated and I'm disappointed but I can only speak for myself. At the same time, I know we're a good team and this is going to turn around. The breaks are going to start going our way again. It's got to happen. We're working way too hard for it not to happen."

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