PHOENIX -- The pace was quicker than during John Tortorella's time. Marc Staal even scored a second-period power-play goal. And the Rangers continued to block shots, a staple under the previous regime.
But in the first game under new coach Alain Vigneault, the Rangers' defense faltered and the Coyotes, riding a hat trick from Radim Vrbata, beat the Blueshirts, 4-1. "We had a couple breakdowns that cost us," Henrik Lundqvist said. "Their d-men joined the rush and made it tough for us to control them."
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In the Rangers' first game of a five-game road trip out West, the Coyotes' Kyle Chipchura opened the scoring at 3:36 of the first period, beating Lundqvist low on the stick side 30 seconds after the Rangers had killed off Benoit Pouliot's holding penalty.
The Rangers -- playing without captain Ryan Callahan and left wing Carl Hagelin, both rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgeries -- started 0-for-2 on the power play, the second one coming when Keith Yandle cleared the puck over the glass at 16:33. But Mike Smith, who stopped 23 shots, dived to deny Pouliot's right-side drive after a nice passing sequence and also gloved Brad Richards' one-timer off a cross-ice feed from Derek Stepan. "We had some good chances, Richie absolutely labels one, and Smith stops it," Staal said.
"You'd like to score on that shot, but it was still 1-1 in the second" after Staal's goal at 3:38, Richards said. "We're outshooting them at that point, and we let that get away from us. We got into penalty trouble and have guys caught out there too long, and they end up scoring, not on the power play, but right after. So if we get out of the second period after we score that power-play goal, it might be a different game."
In the second, the penalty-killers managed to hold the Coyotes at bay after John Moore's hook at 4:46, but Vrbata put in his own rebound while in the crease at 7:05. Lundqvist, who complained that he was interfered with in the crease, was out of position and unable to react.
The Rangers almost tied the score when Mats Zuccarello's rising wrister from the right circle beat Smith with 5:49 left in the second, but it hit the crossbar behind Smith's right shoulder.
Vrbata scored his second at 1:10 of the third for a 3-1 edge on a power play with Dan Girardi in the box for roughing. Vrbata scored his third goal in the third, scooping up a loose puck -- which the Coyotes seemed to do much of the evening -- and lifting it past Lundqvist at 7:23 for the three-goal lead.
"We gave them some momentum on their power play," Vigneault said. "We didn't do a real good job of clearing the puck. On their second goal, yes, we killed it, but they caught us tired. On the third goal, they win the draw, deflection, and it ends up in the back of the net."
The Rangers dodged a first-period bullet when defenseman Ryan McDonagh went down, then off for repairs after Vrbata's shot opened a cut in his chin.
Staal's goal, on the team's third power play, came when he crept down the left side and converted a nice feed from Rick Nash at 3:38 of the second.
In the third, Girardi was sent off for roughing near the benches 1:02 into the period. Eight seconds later, the Coyotes, who had 32 shots, extended the lead to 3-1, as Vrbata's shot from the point deflected past Lundqvist.
Frustration mounted in the third for the Rangers, as Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves with Chris Brown and Nash fought Martin Hanzal at 17:56.
The Rangers will face the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. "It's a long road trip here,'' Girardi said. "We've got to fix those mistakes right away and get some wins."