Special teams was the difference in the Rangers' 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.
New York went 0-for-6 on the power play and surrendered two goals in four shorthanded situations against the Leafs.
"We lost the special teams battle tonight. It's a key point for us," Derek Stepan said. "We talk about it before every game. We have to win those and tonight we lost them. You're going to put yourself in a tough spot to win a hockey game when you lose the special teams."
Toronto opened the scoring 4:49 into the contest on a William Nylander goal from the circle that beat Henrik Lundqvist five-hole. It was the fourth time in the last five games New York surrendered the first goal.
"I don't have the answer," Lundqvist said when asked about allowing the first goal. "If we did have it, it would be easy to correct, but sometimes you get into a situation like this when it happens in a few games. We put ourselves in a tough spot in the end."
The Maple Leafs would extend their lead to two before the end of the first on a power play goal by James van Riemsdyk.
Chris Kreider scored at 9:05 of the second period to get the Rangers back to within one. Kreider was able to swipe home a loose puck from just outside the crease and under goaltender Frederik Andersen for his eighth goal in his last eight games, and 17th overall.
But Toronto would answer 5:22 later on a Connor Brown tally to regain the two-goal lead. Lundqvist said that was the game-changer.
"I feel like the big killer this game was the third goal," said Lundqvist, who made 23 saves. "I felt like we turned it around a little when we scored our first goal. We had momentum a little bit. Then we get a bad bounce there (on Toronto's third goal) and that was a tough one. The energy kind of went down a little bit after that and it was hard for us to really create the big chances."
Toronto would make it 4-1 on a power play goal by Connor Carrick at 13:20 of the third to put the game away. J.T. Miller netted his 13th of the season with 1:25 to play.
Head coach Alain Vigneault said he was pleased with his team's performance at even strength, but on some nights, that isn't enough.
"Our 5-on-5 game tonight as far as spending time in their end and getting looks was good," Vigneault said. "But to win in this league, where all teams in my estimation are good, you saw that with the skill level that Toronto had tonight, all parts of your game have to be there. When there's one (that isn't) it's usually very hard and tonight our special teams and the fact that we didn't make them pay 5-on-5 - except the one at the end there - made it very challenging for us."