The last time the Rangers could really feel good about their play was in May when they knocked off the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’re back in Washington tonight as their rocky nine-game season-opening road trip continues.

A season that began with the anticipation of playing in new coach Alain Vigneault’s system has devolved into a mess of turnovers blown defensive assignments and not enough offensive production from everybody not named Brad Richards.

Vigneault has started to shake up his lineup with J.T. Miller back on the fourth line for now after a three-game stint with Hartford (AHL). He is expected to see time with the second power-play unit. Vigneault promised after Tuesday’s practice that Miller soon could be elevated to a different line.

“I see him with some offensive potential” Vigneault said. “We have some players right now that are getting a real good opportunity to show what they can do. Some guys are getting top-six forward minutes. They’re getting power-play time. Some guys’ production is not where it needs to be to stay in one of those spots long term.”

So scoreless Mats Zuccarello Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot even scoreless rookie Jesper Fast consider yourself on notice.

And perhaps even defenseman Michael Del Zotto who is expected to miss tonight’s game against the Capitals with the flu. As a group the Rangers’ defensemen have not seemed to grasp Vigneault’s desire to outnumber the opposition and determine who’s protecting the net.

“I think that we’ve turned a lot of pucks over” defenseman Anton Stralman said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit making the other team look a lot better than they were.”

Still Saturday’s 5-3 loss at St. Louis was seen as progress thanks to a good third period from struggling franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist — especially after blowout losses in San Jose and Anaheim.

“I don’t feel there’s a sense of panic but there needs to be and there is a sense of urgency” captain Ryan Callahan said. “No matter what time of the year it is going 1-4 is not good.”

So perhaps the Rangers can continue to slowly regain their confidence against the Capitals. The last time the teams met the Rangers won Game 7 of their first-round playoff series 5-0 on May 13 at Verizon Center.

“Different season different challenge” Lundqvist said. “You don’t think about it; just a good memory I guess.”