Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was blunt in his assessment of his team's play in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which snapped a six-game point streak at The Garden.
"We've had a good stretch here and things have been going our way and we've been finding ways to win, but you've got to come ready to play and come ready to put in a 60-minute effort here," McDonagh said. "We didn't do that."
The Rangers found themselves trailing just 1:02 into the game when Alexander Wennberg beat Henrik Lundqvist for his 11th of the season.
Video: CBJ@NYR: Vesey sets up Nash with fancy no-look pass
Rick Nash answered quickly with his 18th of the season. Derek Stepan dropped a pass for Jimmy Vesey just inside the Blue Jackets' zone, and the rookie hit Nash with a no-look pass at the faceoff dot for the goal.
The Blue Jackets had a response of their own just 2:40 later when Atkinson scored on the power play to put Columbus up for good.
Wennberg added his second of the night at 9:47 of the second period, and Atkinson padded the lead with his second 4:12 into the third period to make it 4-1. Josh Anderson scored with 24 seconds remaining to make it 5-1.
Jesper Fast scored with less than a second to play to bring the Rangers to within three.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said the Rangers had opportunities offensively, especially through the game's first 40 minutes when the Rangers outshot Columbus 22-19. But, according to Vigneault, the Rangers did not make the most of their chances while Columbus did.
"Tonight's a matter of one team making high-percentage plays with the puck and the other one making low-percentage plays with the puck," Vigneault said. "We spent quite a bit of time in their end. We didn't get a lot out of it. What we did get were offensive-zone turnovers that led to grade-A opportunities on their part. They were by far the better team tonight."
Lundqvist, who finished with 21 saves in his first regulation loss at The Garden since Jan. 25, said the game was won and lost in front of the net. Those struggles have been uncharacteristic of the Rangers as of late, who have held opponents to three goals or fewer in 10 of their last 11 games.
"The key is really in front in both ends," Lundqvist said. "That's where you win and lose this battle against this team. That's how they score their goals. They just win their battles in front of our net and they are pretty good in front of their own net. I think that's the difference. That's where you score a lot of goals."
New York wrapped up its back-to-back set, and entered Sunday's game coming off three straight overtimes, including two that went to the shootout. Derek Stepan, though, refused to cite that as a reason for Sunday's disappointing result.
"I'm not sure, but it certainly can't be an excuse," Stepan said. "We have played three straight overtime games. I don't know if that's the case, but whatever it may be, we just weren't the best team tonight. The better team won."