ZUG, Switzerland -- With four games in five nights in four different countries, the road-weary New York Rangers were bound to put up a stinker.
It happened Monday at Bossard Arena against a hungry Swiss National League A team that included several former NHL players.
The Rangers, who had won their previous three games in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge, had no jump early in the game and couldn't stop EV Zug from scoring in bunches.
They lost 8-4 in front of a raucous, chanting, singing and flag-waving crowd of roughly 7,000 -- but it's all forgotten now because Tuesday the Rangers will fly to Stockholm to begin final preparations for their regular season-opener Friday against Los Angeles in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere. They also play Anaheim in Stockholm on Saturday before finally going home after a 13-night trip that included four countries and six flights -- two across the Atlantic Ocean.
"I can't wait to get going," center Brad Richards told NHL.com. "I think we're all a little over this part of (the trip), especially the way it's ended with four in five nights, all the travel. We're excited to get to one place and practice. We haven't really practiced and we all know as players we need to get together and have a few hard practices to get focused in on one thing."
The Rangers will have Tuesday off before getting on the NHL regulation-sized ice at Ericsson Globe Arena for practices Wednesday and Thursday. They played the last four games on international-sized ice, which is bigger than what they are used to and what they are built for.
Coach John Tortorella has admittedly had a difficult time evaluating players in the four preseason games because he knows the game on the bigger ice is so much different than on North American ice.
"It's a totally different game," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "You can see that on the forecheck. There is so much room out there that it's something to get used to, but we'll recover and it shouldn't be an issue going into the regular season at all, the way we feel and being tired or anything like that."
Brandon Dubinsky, who struggled with his physical forechecking game on the bigger ice, is one player that definitely can't wait for the 200-by-85 foot ice sheet.
"I'm certainly looking forward to it with the way I play," Dubinsky said. "It is certainly a different experience (on the bigger ice), especially when it goes D-to-D. Sometimes they get those passes (completed) where on normal ice it's a little bit easier (to defend them). It'll be nice getting back to a surface that we're used to."
The Rangers struggled against the veteran Zug squad that was built for the bigger ice, but also defended in front of their own net very well.
Ex-NHLers Josh Holden and Esa Pirens each scored twice. Glen Metropolit, who last played for Montreal in 2009-10, also had a goal. Swiss league leading scorer Damien Brunner, who reportedly received interest from at least one NHL club this summer, scored along with Duri Camichal and Fabian Schnyder.
The Rangers, who trailed 3-1 at one point in the first period, got goals from Callahan, Mike Rupp, Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov.
Rupp and Anisimov scored 13 seconds apart late in the first period to tie the game at 3-3. Zug went ahead 5-3 midway through the second period when Metropolit and Holden each scored in less than a minute.
Fedotenko got one back for the Rangers with only 72 seconds remaining before the second intermission, slicing the deficit to 5-4 heading into the third period, but Pirnes and Brunner scored within the first 4:01 to give Zug a 7-4 lead. Schnyder added an empty-net goal with 4:05 to play.
"We had the puck in their end zone for quite a while but we never got anything going offensively because they defended very well in front of their net," Tortorella said. "They held the middle of the ice and when they had the opportunity to go, they flew. So, give them some credit, but we're going to push right by this, get them rest, get out to Stockholm and start having a couple of good practices to gear up for our season."
After all of the travel over the last five days, the Rangers couldn't be more ready to get settled in one place for a few days and start playing for points.
First, though, they'll get a much needed rest/travel day Tuesday.
After going 3-1 in a stretch of four games in five nights in four different countries, they've earned it.
"Training camp is over now so we can step away, and then get ready for that practice Wednesday, get ready for what is up ahead," Callahan said. "Now it's time to start focusing on the real games, the games that mean something. Obviously there are things we need to do teaching-wise. So, now it's time to start focusing on L.A. and approaching it like a regular season game, which it is."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl