Predators goaltender Juuse Saros makes a save against the Rangers...

Predators goaltender Juuse Saros makes a save against the Rangers in the second period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The heavy concentration of games may be starting to take its toll on the Rangers. Either that, or the step up in the quality of the opposition.

But what really got them Sunday night was the thing that coach Gerard Gallant has been bemoaning for a few days now — an inability to play a complete 60-minute hockey game. Playing desperate hockey the last 25 or so minutes against the Nashville Predators was not enough, and the Rangers lost for the second time in three games, 1-0.

And Gallant, who has been mostly positive even after losses this season, clearly wasn’t happy.

"No question, it was a bad first period,’’ he said. "We played too soft. We didn’t play hard enough. It was a man’s game. We didn’t play a man’s game.’’

The loss, the second straight at the Garden, dropped the Rangers to 18-6-3. They now face back-to-back games Tuesday in Colorado and Wednesday in Arizona.

The game against the Avalanche will be an interesting rematch. Colorado beat the Rangers, 7-3, at the Garden last Wednesday to end their seven-game winning streak. It also featured Jacob Trouba delivering a crunching hit to Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon, so Tuesday’s game might include more physical play than usual.

Filip Tomasino scored the only goal in Sunday’s game in the second period. Nashville (17-10-1) enjoyed its trip to the New York metropolitan area, sweeping all three area teams.

The Rangers did dominate possession in the third period and had a chance to get the tying goal when Michael McCarron was sent off for tripping Adam Fox at 6:25. But despite creating some heavy pressure on Nashville goalie Juuse Saros (32 saves), they came up empty.

Saros made two great glove saves on Ryan Strome from the slot on the power play and another when a pass from Strome deflected off a Predators defender on goal as the power play was expiring.

It wasn’t enough to impress Gallant, though.

"Their goalie made some good saves on that power play, obviously, but it’s not good enough, when their two best players [Matt Duchene, out with an upper-body injury, and Ryan Johansen, who is in the COVID-19 protocols] aren’t playing today.

"We just didn’t do enough in that first period,’’ Gallant said. "They hemmed us in our zone, we didn’t pay a price to win the board battles, and in the end, it cost us.’’

The Rangers were outplayed for the first period-and-a-half and needed goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (23 saves) to keep them in the game.

"They play, I guess, a different system than we’re used to seeing,’’ said Trouba, whose massive hit on Predators forward Luke Kunin seemed to turn the game around and give the Rangers momentum. "They play it well. They play a really disciplined game. They don’t fuel any of our offense, any transition. They pack it in pretty tight in the ‘D’ zone.’’

"We played a game the other night [Friday’s 2-1 win in Buffalo] where it was more wide open, more space, less physical,’’ forward Chris Kreider said. "We didn’t play particularly well [Friday] and won, and we carried that into this game. We weren’t winning enough battles. They were finishing all their checks, they were winning all their battles.

"It took us 20 minutes to figure that out. That . . . can’t happen.’’

The Rangers finally appeared to turn things around and seemed to gain momentum after yet another big hit from Trouba, who rocked Kunin just outside the Rangers’ zone, dropping him to the ice with 3:31 left in the second period. They got four shots on goal before the period was over and outshot Nashville 16-5 in the final period.

More Rangers

ONE-DAY SALE26¢ for 5 6 months