Rangers fall to 0-2 after losing home opener to Penguins

Rangers' Derek Stepan, right, pushes Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney

Rangers' Derek Stepan, right, pushes Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby after they fell down together during the third period. (Jan. 20, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Pick a problem, any problem. The Rangers have plenty: Battle level. Execution. Failure to get the puck out of the defensive zone quickly. Not sticking with the system.

Add it all up and the result is two straight losses to start a 48-game season.

Last night's 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh in the home opener, in which coach John Tortorella pulled Henrik Lundqvist at the 9:11 mark of the second period after the Penguins took a 4-1 lead, has put the Rangers in an early hole to start this shortened season.

"I don't think we were strong in any aspect," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We need to play better in front of him. We're not good enough in the defensive zone and I don't think that has anything to do with Hank."

Still, it was a rare sight to see the Vezina Trophy winner, who made 31 saves Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Bruins, on the bench mid-game. That never happened because of a poor performance last season. He did leave a 2-0 loss in Edmonton on Oct. 22, 2011, the sixth game of the season, after 48:25 with a skate issue.

"Personally, it was a tough night," Lundqvist said. "Right away from the get-go, it felt like the puck wasn't really bouncing my way, and I don't have a problem with that decision at all."

Tortorella absolved him, saying he wasn't pleased with the breakdowns and blaming the team "for what was going on in front of him."

For Lundqvist, the decisive blow came on Evgeni Malkin's beautiful setup to Pascal Dupuis for a gimme in front. Martin Biron came in to stop 19 of 20 shots, but the mood of the crowd had soured.

Biron was cheered when he stopped a bad-angle shot. More applause came when fans heard the announcement that there was one minute left in the second period.

"I don't think we're pushing the panic buttons," said Rick Nash, who scored shorthanded for his first goal as a Ranger with 5:15 left in the third to trim their deficit to 5-3. "There's a lot of mistakes out there. The big one is our own end. We seem to get running around. The system works when all five guys are doing it as a unit."

Marc Staal was more specific: "The little passes and details that get us out of our end zone quickly and not hemmed in weren't there. When we got the puck back, we were too tired to make any plays with it."

James Neal opened the scoring on a power play at 1:48. Callahan tied it, banging in a rebound off a shot from Brad Richards at 9:55 with the man advantage. Tyler Kennedy made it 2-1 at 15:05 and Matt Niskanen's long screened shot with 1:10 left gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead.

Sidney Crosby got the assist, his only point of the game. In fact, it was his only point in the first two games for the Penguins, who beat the Flyers on Saturday.

In the third, Neal, completely uncovered in the slot, easily beat Biron at 5:06 for a 5-1 lead. Fifty-eight seconds later, Taylor Pyatt converted a pass from Michael del Zotto. Kris Letang scored an empty-netter with 1:42 left.

The schedule doesn't get any easier with the Bruins coming in on Wednesday.

"We can't use the 'early in the season' thing," Richards said. "The only good thing is we're four points out of first in the division. We can't let it snowball."

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