Rangers left wing Rick Nash skates on the ice before...

Rangers left wing Rick Nash skates on the ice before Game 1 of a Stanley Cup NHL playoff hockey series against the Washington Capitals. (May 2, 2013) Credit: AP

SAN JOSE -- Rick Nash walked out of SAP Center late Tuesday with a headache that had worsened as the game went on, and was worried about a possible concussion. The rest of the Rangers walked out humbled and sullen after a pathetic effort in a 9-2 trouncing by the Sharks in the third game of the season.  

Nash was caught by a high elbow from defenseman Brad Stuart just 2:32 into the game that he said “got me right across the head”, pointing to the right side of his face. “Anytime you get a head shot, you’re concerned.”

But Nash, 29, who had sustained a concussion and was on injured reserve for four games in February 2012, went back on the ice before leaving for good after logging nine shifts and 5:53. The team said during the first intermission that he was done for the night.

Stuart received a two-minute minor for elbowing, but head coach Alain Vigneault believed the defenseman deserved more. “The replay I saw showed he (Stuart) clearly hit his head and his feet seemed to leave the ice surface, so it’s up for the league to decide,” Vigneault said after the game. “The only thing I know was I was told after the first period that he wasn’t coming back.”

And neither were the Rangers, not by a long shot.

“We got embarrassed tonight and we have to respond,” said captain Ryan Callahan after the group held a post-game, closed-door meeting in the visitors’ locker room. “You can talk about Xs and Os all you want, but the effort has to be there.”

Down 2-1 after the first period, the Rangers bent and broke, giving up six straight goals as the speedy Sharks, who are 3-0, steamrolled the Blueshirts in one of the most one-sided losses since the 2005-06 season.

“It was ugly,” said Derick Brassard. “We have a lot of work to do obviously; we played probably the best team in the league, they really took over in the second period.  No one is really proud of our effort right now. It’s not going to get easier on the trip. It wasn’t the game anyone was expecting. There were 10 minutes in the second period where they were all over us. We could’ve managed the puck a little better and moved our feet and make sure the puck goes 200 feet. We left Hank on his own out there. It was really ugly; we have to move on, it’s a long season.”

Lundqvist, who allowed four goals on 26 shots before he was relieved by Martin Biron, who watched five go by on 21 shots, including the third and fourth goals of the night for Tomas Hertl. The relentless Sharks outshot the Rangers 47-20.

“They did exactly what they wanted to do out there,” said Lundqvist. “The difference between the two teams---the way they played, the way we played--- was just too big…Very disappointed coming from Monday night, the way we played.  Yeah, you try to battle even though things were not going our way, but in the end it was not good enough. Yeah, it is embarrassing to lose 9-2. We talked about things after the game. They had a lot of desperation and we have to match that. We had some time to think about what happened and now it’s time to forget about it, but you definitely have to learn from what happened and what do we need to correct and do better, then move on, and do it fast.

Vigneault seemed stunned by the turnaround.

“San Jose was on top of their game, on top of their execution, the score could’ve been 3 or 4 to 1 after the first period,” he said.” Tough to understand how we could play so well last (Monday) night and play like this tonight. So we’ve got 48 hours before the next game (in Anaheim) and come up with some answers.  Right now, I don’t have an explanation. You think you’re taking a step forward after the way we played (in L.A.) and obviously, we didn’t take a step forward. I think we’re going to take the night to sleep on this, watch the tape, see what video tells us, but at the end of the day you have to trust your leadership, I have to believe there’s some strong leaders, who are obviously not pleased with the way we performed and don’t want it to happen again.”

The Rangers will be off Wednesday, as required by the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, before facing the Ducks in Anaheim, probably without Nash, who has scored 30 goals or more in seven seasons and was off to a very good start, with three assists in two games.

They have just one extra forward on the roster, Swedish rookie Jesper Fast, because the front office opted to send J.T. Miller to get more minutes in Hartford after dropping the season opener to Phoenix.  Miller scored twice and had an assist in his first game with the Wolfpack and could be summoned.

But Miller, 20, or prospect Chris Kreider, don’t have the pedigree of Nash, who was obtained from Columbus two summers ago, and holds the key to a successful season. That is, if the rest of the team can regroup, with or without him.

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