A sold-out crowd packed Consol Energy Center with extra energy, fueled by the Penguins’ perch atop the Eastern Conference, the struggling Rangers in town and the St. Patrick’s Day festivities outside the arena.

At this rate, it may be the closest the Rangers get to a playoff atmosphere.

A mini-slide has turned into a full-blown funk, threatening their postseason hopes in this lockout-shortened season.

Another early goal allowed, another inconsistent effort and the punchless offense’s continued struggles added up to yet another defeat yesterday. The Rangers’ third straight loss and fourth in five games was a 3-0 blanking at the hands of the sizzling Penguins that plunged them deeper into their current slump. The good feelings from a recent five-game win streak have been washed away, as the Rangers have scored two goals in their past three games.