Rangers lose ugly to Penguins in home opener
The old barn on 33rd Street roared with excitement — and then the game was actually played.
The Rangers’ home opener was designed to be a celebration of the franchise’s historic past and anticipation of the future. But the present was an ugly, 6-3, loss to the Penguins that left those in attendance offering caustic analysis of the Rangers’ job performance.
“I don’t think we were strong in really any aspect. We have some things we need to work on,” Ryan Callahan said. The captain scored the Rangers’ first goal but finished minus-3 in 19:21 of ice time.
Taylor Pyatt and Rick Nash also scored goals. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after Pascal Dupuis’s power-play goal 9:11 into the second period. Dupuis’s goal increased the Pens’ lead to 4-1.
Lundqvist allowed four goals on 18 shots before being replaced by Martin Biron. Biron stopped 19-of-20 shots.
“I think we got away a little bit from the way we [played] last year — the hard-nosed style, in your face. I think it starts with that and trickles from there into our systems. Obviously we expected our systems not to be perfect from the start but at the same time, they need to be better than they are,” Callahan said. “Whatever the reason is, we need to fix it and I believe it will.”
While the Rangers weren’t good, the match was only the second game in as many days following a five-day training camp. It was an exhibition game with real stakes because of the abbreviated nature of the 2013 campaign.
There were breakdowns all over the Garden Sunday, none more significant than Chris Kreider and Stu Bickel allowing Joe Vitale to skate by untouched to set up Tyler Kennedy’s go-ahead goal 15:05 into the match.
“All of them,” head coach John Tortorella said when asked what aspect of his team’s play concerned him. “That is certainly not being sarcastic. All of them.”
The penalty kill, which ranked fifth in the league last season, spent much of four penalty kills chasing the puck, leaving wide swaths of ice for the Penguins’ potent power play. Pittsburgh finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage with James Neal and Pascal Dupuis scoring goals.
Neal also had an even-strength marker, while Matt Niskanen and Kris Letang each scored a goal apiece. Evgeni Malkin recorded three assists.
“I think at some points there were breakdowns,” Dan Girardi said. “I think we’re kind of disjointed. We’re not playing in five-man units like we always do. We’re always so tight. Nothing gets through there.
“That’s when we’re best, when we’re collapsed and keep everything to the outside. Blocking shots and not letting them get second and third opportunities. I think that was a big part of their game tonight was getting to the blue paint and getting some chances there.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.