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Rangers' juggling act can't prevent fourth loss in a row

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist watches a video replay

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist watches a video replay of a goal by Canucks center Bo Horvat in the first period of a NHL game on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

Unhappy with his team’s defensive effort in Friday’s loss to the Capitals, Rangers coach David Quinn did more line-shuffling for Sunday’s matinee against the Vancouver Canucks at the Garden.

When the Rangers laid an egg in the first period, Quinn kept tinkering, and tinkering some more, until something finally clicked.

The Rangers began to hit people, win battles for pucks and dominate play in the third period. Unfortunately for Quinn, his team and the Garden crowd, the turnaround came too late to halt the Rangers’ losing streak.

Vancouver scored three goals in the first period and held on for a 3-2 victory despite a furious charge by the Rangers (2-4-0) in the last 25 minutes of the game. The loss was their fourth straight.

“We talked about this in the past; we cannot win a game in the first period, but you can lose one,’’ said Henrik Lundqvist, who started his second game in a row and stopped 40 of 43 shots.

“That’s what happened today. They were ready to play and we were not. It felt like they were beating us all over the ice. It was just too easy for them to create big scoring chances.

“In the third period, we got the speed, the legs going; we started playing very desperate hockey. It looked great; it was just too big of a hill to climb there.’’

The Canucks, playing the third game on a four-game trip and on the second day of a back-to-back, built a 3-0 lead in the first period on the strength of a power-play goal by Bo Horvat, an even-strength goal by Brock Boeser and a shorthanded goal by Jay Beagle.

Vancouver (5-3-0) outshot the Rangers 20-13 in the first period and 17-10 in the second, but Lundqvist kept his team in it.

The Rangers got the only goal of the second period, a tip-in by Jesper Fast of Jacob Trouba’s shot at 14:58.

Artemi Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season at 5:31 of the third, set up by Fast, to pull the Rangers within 3-2.

They spent most of the third period in the Vancouver end of the ice, peppering Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom with 17 shots, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome.

“I think, obviously, after the first, it was pretty tough in here,’’ third-line center Ryan Strome said. “We came in, we got yelled at, we yelled at each other a little bit, and we came out and had a better second and a great third. So we’re a young team, we’re trying to find our way here, and we have to do that for 60 minutes.’’

Strome thought he had tied the score in the final minute when he deflected a tape-to-tape pass from Adam Fox, but Markstrom, who appeared to be beaten on the play, somehow managed to keep the puck out.

“There’s no moral victories in this league; every night’s hard,’’ Strome said. “But I think if you look at the way we played in the last 20, maybe even the last 30 minutes of that game . . . I think we were in their zone three-quarters, 80 percent of the period and, you know, the emotion of the crowd was back, and it was a good feeling.’’

Quinn seemed more bothered by the poor start than cheered by the strong finish.

“Every single time in the first 35 minutes of that game, they would beat us off walls and get to the middle of the rink,’’ he said. “And, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s mano a mano. You’ve got to win battles; you’ve got to get into people . . . Every loose puck they would get. They won every battle for the first 35 minutes.’’

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