The Rangers were unable to carry over the momentum from a three-game winning streak to close out 2016 into the New Year after a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night
Head coach Alain Vigneault said simply that his team was not ready to compete once the puck dropped.
"I don't want to take anything away from the opposition but there's no doubt we didn't do a good enough job in preparing our team for tonight's game," he said. "I've mentioned it many times there are no easy games in this league. We weren't ready when the game started. Our execution was non-existent. We didn't have a [defenseman] who could make a pass and our compete level was not good enough.
"I haven't said this very often about this group since I've been here," Vigneault continued, "but this was a very bad game where we got outworked badly and we're going to need to respond here."
Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Zemgus Girgensons and Evander Kane, the latter coming with just 39 seconds remaining in the period.
The Rangers did not have their first shot on goal until the 9:54 mark of the opening period, something captain Ryan McDonagh attributed it to a lack of effort.
"They outworked us there in the first, there's no question about it," he said. "There's no excuse for that. We owe it to ourselves as players, our linemates and d-pairs, to prepare yourself for every game so you can go out and execute and give ourselves a chance. For whatever reason we didn't do that tonight."
The Sabres would extend the lead to 3-0 on a Justin Bailey goal just 63 seconds into the middle frame.
Video: BUF@NYR: Holden blasts a one-timer past Nilsson
Nick Holden would get New York back to within two with 4:05 remaining in the second period when his slap shot beat Anders Nilsson to make it 3-1.
The goal - his fourth in four games - was Holden's eighth, which leads all Rangers defensemen this season.
But Buffalo would answer 1:10 into the third period on a power play goal by Jack Eichel to extend the lead for good to 4-1, which Henrik Lundqvist said was a crucial moment in the contest.
"We had some momentum. We scored a goal and tried to come back and then they get on the power play early in the third and kind of killed that momentum," said Lundqvist, who made 15 saves.
The Rangers do not have to wait long to try and rectify tonight's performance, as they head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers tomorrow night at 8 pm.
"They're going to put on a good test for us," McDonagh said. "They play really well at home. Same way if we come out like this we're going to get embarrassed once again. Hope our group really takes this to heart. Be professional about it here and get yourself ready to play. Recover and get your mind in the right state of frame to go out there and do what's needed of you."