Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) scores on a...

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) scores on a deflection past Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Ottawa, Ontario. Credit: AP/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – After they nearly squandered a three-goal lead in the third period Sunday against the last-in-the-league San Jose Sharks, it was easy for the Rangers to brush off that too-close-for-comfort win by focusing on the two points rather than their poor defensive performance over the final 20 minutes.

But when their loose defense cost them a game Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre against the lowly Ottawa Senators, well, that was a real problem for the Rangers.

“We were pretty loose that game,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said. “It seemed like, especially that second period was run and gun, guys behind us, odd man rushes – so just a sloppy one out of us and definitely one to forget.’’

Two goals each by Brady Tkachuk and old friend Vladimir Tarasenko, and a stellar performance by goaltender Anton Forsberg, powered the Senators to a 6-2 victory over the Rangers, ending the Blueshirts’ three-game winning streak. Forsberg made 33 saves for the Senators, who are 10-10-0.

With the loss, the Rangers (18-5-1, 37 points) failed to move into first place overall in the NHL. They remained in a three-way tie for the points lead with idle Boston and Vegas.

“I think we needed to do a better job defensively,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were coming at us with speed and I don't think we layered properly. We didn't do the right things with regard to defending, taking care of the rush. They got behind us, for different reasons.’’

Laviolette insisted, though, that the Rangers’ breakdowns were “teachable things, things that we can get better at.’’

Captain Jacob Trouba was asked if any of the sloppiness from Sunday’s third period had carried over into Tuesday’s game, which was the Rangers’ third in four nights.

“I think just like the sharpness in general,’’ he said. “We ended up getting away from what made us as good as we were early in the year, with (limiting opponents’) odd man rushes. And obviously, we’ve given up too many goals last two games. So I think, just kind of look at it, address it, understand why it's happening, and make the proper adjustments.’’

Artemi Panarin, who’d had a hat trick in Sunday’s 6-5 win, had a power play goal and an assist for the Rangers, and defenseman K’Andre Miller scored the other goal. But goaltender Igor Shesterkin had a tough night, allowing five goals while making 30 saves.

“Just kind of turn the page,’’ Trouba said. “Nobody's dog died. It's OK. We lost a game.’’

Besides playing their third game in four nights, the Rangers were a man short after the first period when forward Barclay Goodrow left the game after taking a puck to the face. That left with Rangers juggling 11 forwards for the last two periods. Laviolette said Goodrow will be evaluated in the coming days. The Rangers don’t play again until Saturday in Washington.

The Rangers were down 2-0 after the first period on goals by Tkachuk, at 11:00, and Claude Giroux, on a wraparound at 18:34. Panarin scored on a power play 39 seconds into the second to get the Rangers on the board, but his longtime pal Tarasenko picked up a puck in the neutral zone after Erik Gustafsson turned it over, and beat Shesterkin with a shot from the lower right wing circle. The goal was his first in the last 14 games.

Miller answered that 23 seconds later, popping in the rebound of a shot by Alexis Lafrenière, to pull the Rangers within 3-2, but Drake Batherson punched in the rebound of a Tarasenko shot to put Ottawa ahead 4-2 at 7:18. Tkachuk banged in a rebound off the end boards to make it 5-2 at 17:43.

Tarasenko added an empty-net goal with 2:50 remaining to close the scoring.

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