It’s only natural that this becomes a moment of reflection, one in which the noise surrounding the Rangers can dim and there at least can be a partial understanding of what has transpired, and what might in the future.

Tuesday night was New Year’s Eve at the BB&T Center, and the Blueshirts were playing game No. 41 of this confounding season, the halfway mark memorialized with a 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers. It was a game the Rangers got pretty well run out of the building at five-on-five, and the positive that they took with them out into the dank Florida evening in anticipation of 2014 was muddied with perspective.

“We’re not good enough to rely on talent because we haven’t shown we can score at will, like some teams do,” said Brad Richards, the only player from either team to score in the skills competition. “So it has to be structure, it has to be a team game, four lines. When we rely on that, and stay with that, we usually give ourselves a good chance to win.”

It’s almost as if Richards was damning with faint praise, but with all of his previous inconsistencies, he understands the fragile mental line that both the individual and the group walk in this league. Which made it more important that goalie Henrik Lundqvist won consecutive games for the first time since Halloween, and that it was not just Richards who had some chances, but Rick Nash and Derek Stepan who played well and assisted on Dan Girardi’s game-tying goal with 2:10 remaining in regulation.