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RANGERS 6, BRUINS 1

Bruins are frozen in place

Rangers whiz right by them in rout

They've watched video.

They've had one-on-one meetings with the coaching staff.

They've had team meetings to vent their frustrations.

They've gone through butt-busting morning skates.

They've been subjected to line changes and goalie switches and seemingly every tactical move aimed to shake them from a post-Christmas slump that has seen the Bruins sink like a stone to the bottom of the Northeast Division.

Nothing has worked, and the trend continued last night against the New York Rangers, who kicked in the Bruins' teeth with a 6-1 win before 13,367 at TD Banknorth Garden. At this point, deals for a defenseman and energy forward, hinted at by general manager Peter Chiarelli, might be too little for the Bruins, who need more than spare parts to turn things around and get the slightest sniff at a playoff berth.

"It's time for every player in this room to dig down deep," said Paul Mara (zero shots in 21:46 of ice time). "It's not just one player who's going to get us out of this hole. It's everyone. We know that, and everybody has to stick together as a team.

"We've had our meetings. We've had our video sessions. We've done everything we've can. It's up to the players. There are 20 guys in here battling, and it's up to us to get it done."

The Bruins -- losers of three straight and stuck in a 4-9-2 slump since Dec. 26 -- have recognized their situation for some time. They need points. They need emotion. They need leaders to emerge.

"Right now, it's important for the leadership and character of some individuals to take the forefront," coach Dave Lewis said before the game. "If nothing else, say, 'Come and follow me.' I'm waiting to see if that happens."

Lewis will still be waiting.

The Bruins fell behind by a 3-1 count in the second period, prompting Lewis to pull goalie Tim Thomas. But they proceeded to give up a shorthanded goal in that period and two more third-period strikes -- including a Brendan Shanahan penalty shot that had nearly every Bruin scratching his head -- in a tuck-the-tails performance on national television, never threatening to make it a game in the final frame.

On deck: A game in Buffalo tonight against the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres, a rematch in Boston against Buffalo Thursday, and a date with the defending Cup champ Hurricanes Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.

"It's a devastating loss," said Lewis. "We're going to pick ourselves up and get ready for the game [tonight] and see what happens."

The sob story in the Boston dressing room was the number of bounces that went the Rangers' way. In the first period, a behind-the-net fling by Petr Prucha caromed off the skate of Patrice Bergeron and past Thomas for New York's first goal.

Later in the period, after Bergeron had tied the score with a power-play goal, the Rangers swiped back the lead after Mara and Wayne Primeau got caught checking defenseman Fedor Tyutin along the left boards. The puck squirted out to Prucha, who shook off Brad Stuart and fed the puck to defenseman Michal Rozsival, who pushed a shot five-hole past Thomas.

Then in the third period, when the Bruins went on their third power play, Zdeno Chara made a sloppy pass that was intercepted by Shanahan. The forward took off the other way, forcing Chara and Bergeron to bother his scoring attempt and draw a penalty shot.

"Nothing," Bergeron said when asked what he did to Shanahan.

"Can't explain it," Lewis said of the call.

"They should get two minutes for bad calls sometimes," said Marc Savard, also a victim of a questionable interference call in the third period. "It's frustrating. You don't know what they're calling anymore."

Bad bounces, however, didn't force Chara to make the ill-advised pass that Shanahan picked off. Bad luck didn't allow penalty-killer Jed Ortmeyer to sprint past P.J. Axelsson and dump Stanislav Chistov off the puck, leading to forward Matt Cullen's back-breaking shorthanded goal. And misfortune wasn't what allowed ex-Bruin Michael Nylander to accelerate past Bobby Allen and stuff a goal down Hannu Toivonen's throat for New York's sixth score.

"Any of you guys have any answers, you can tell us," Mara told his questioners after the game. "We're looking for it. We know we're a good team. We showed it before this year. We're just in one of those ruts right now. We're going to have to work ourselves out of it."

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