In what was a reversal of fortune from Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Rangers allowed five unanswered goals in the second period and six overall and were topped by the Penguins 6-1 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"Very difficult to explain," head coach Alain Vigneault said after the defeat. "There's no doubt we disappointed ourselves tonight and disappointed our fans. I thought we had played a pretty strong first period, killed off some penalties. Had some good looks early on in the second, and then the game got away from us."
After Rick Nash's power play goal at 4:22 of the first period, the Rangers nearly doubled the lead with 2 seconds remaining when Nick Holden fired a shot on net that was stopped by goaltender Matt Murray.
That save loomed large, as Pittsburgh followed the Rangers' lead from Monday night and controlled the game the rest of the way.
Pittsburgh tied the game just 2:02 into the second period, and took the lead for good less than three minutes later on Sidney Crosby's first of two goals on the night when he beat Henrik Lundqvist with a deflection.
Lundqvist would surrender two more goals before giving way to Antti Raanta. Raanta allowed two goals on 21 shots in the no decision, while Lundqvist finished with 13 saves in the loss.
"It's disappointing when personally I felt really good about the first period, felt really strong about the things I was doing," Lundqvist said. "I got away from my game plan. As a team, I think we just have to look at a couple things, but right now I am just focusing on myself and I know I got away from a couple things that I need to do against this team."
While it'd be easy to try and quickly forget about the loss, to a man the Rangers said that cannot happen. Instead of forgetting, they need to learn.
"You've got to learn from this. It's a big moment against a good team," Derek Stepan said. "Good nights and bad nights in hockey. It was a bad night for us. We have to learn from it. We can't just throw this one out because it was not even close."
Crosby finished the night with two goals and an assist, while Phil Kessel registered a goal and an assist.
Vigneault said the team must take the mantra Pittsburgh used following Monday's lopsided defeat and just shift the focus to a better effort Friday in Philadelphia.
"All I know is when we left Pittsburgh after the last game, all [the Penguins] were talking about was the importance of responding well and preparing themselves for the next game and responding. I think the same goes for us."