The Rangers' road trip continued on Sunday afternoon and so did their struggles over the past five days.
Hitting the halfway point of the 2018-19 season, the Rangers went down to a 5-0 defeat at Gila River Arena and fell to 0-2 on their three-game road trip. The loss was the third in a row overall for the Blueshirts, who were shut out for the third time this season.
The Rangers will now head to Las Vegas looking to finish the three-game road trip on a high note against a Golden Knights team that won its sixth straight game on Sunday. They will hope to have Kevin Hayes back for that one after the team's second-leading scorer missed his second consecutive game on Sunday with an upper-body injury that remains day-to-day.
Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves for his first shutout this season and the 12th of his career as the Coyotes snapped their own three-game losing streak and won for the fifth time in 16 games (5-10-1). Conor Garland scored twice - his first career game with multiple goals - and Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists for Arizona, which had 12 players make the scoresheet.
It was Galchenyuk's goal that ended Henrik Lundqvist's evening with 3:22 to play in the second period, the second straight game Lundqvist has been removed early. This one took on a far different texture from the last, though - Galchenyuk's rebound shot was the 32nd shot on goal Lundqvist had faced in less than 37 minutes of play. For the game, the Coyotes held a 40-23 shots advantage and a 69-43 edge in shot attempts.
"We had no legs today. We were clearly the slower team," David Quinn said. "They had way more jump than we did. And it wasn't just a certain group of guys, it looked like every man. We just didn't have any energy. You can't play with no energy in this league."
Asked if he was concerned with Lundqvist's frustration level at the moment, Quinn responded: "I'm concerned with all of our frustration levels."
If the Rangers are to give this road trip an upbeat finish, they will have to find a way to start Tuesday's game on more solid ground than they have the last two. As was the case two nights before in Denver, an early penalty put the Rangers in an early hole once again: with Brendan Smith off for elbowing, Garland, who was playing in his 15th NHL game, scored his first of the night on the power play, 7:19 into the game, setting a screen in front of Lundqvist and redirecting Oliver Ekman-Larsson's shot from straightaway.
It went to 2-0 only two minutes later, when a puck in the slot pinballed off three skates and found the stick of Mario Kempe, who swept it upstairs for his second of the year.
"We're not starting very well, and it's snowballing on us," Marc Staal said. "We're just not playing good enough to win. We're making it too easy on teams, turning a lot of pucks over, just doing a lot of things that lose you hockey games. Right now we're doing that in a big way."
"We've just got to get off to better starts," added Quinn. "We're fragile mentally and physically right now the way things are going. You lose three games like that, there's a whole heap of problems right now, and we've got to address them."
Chris Kreider led the Rangers with five shots on Kuemper in 14:23 on ice, but also was called for a boarding minor that he himself called "a pretty bad penalty." Kreider had perhaps the Rangers' best scoring chance in the game, at the midpoint of the second period, popping out of the penalty box onto a Brady Skjei pass for a breakaway. Kreider came in with speed and deked to the backhand, but Kuemper stayed with him and put the left pad to his shot.
The Blueshirts' alternate captain - one of four Rangers to skate in every game over the season's first half - said he has noticed the starts snowballing on the Rangers because they seem too affected when an early one ends up in their net.
"A little bit too much frustration creeps in when we give up a goal right now just because of the way things are going," Kreider said. "You see it on the ice. Guys start trying to do too much, getting away from just doing their job, playing through their guy, chipping a puck out, chipping a puck in."
Kreider's breakaway came three minutes after Garland's second goal made it 3-0, when Nick Cousins' shot clipped Kevin Shattenkirk's stickblade, then Garland's leg on its way in. Clayton Keller's first goal since Dec. 1 made it 4-0 at 15:13 of the second, when he circled the net and whipped a no-look shot through Lundqvist as the Rangers were completing a change. Galchenyuk closed the scoring 1:25 after that, tucking in the carom of a knuckler from Jordan Oesterle.
"Listen, we hung him out to dry I thought too often," Quinn said of Lundqvist. "When they have the puck as much as they did, it's tough. It's exhausting."
Alexandar Georgiev, who made 41 saves in Denver on Friday night, stopped all eight shots he saw in relief on Sunday.
Tuesday's game in Vegas starts a stretch of four games in six nights for the Blueshirts that includes a home-and-home set with the Islanders and another division game at Columbus. But the only focus for now is getting back on track on Tuesday.
"It's a team game, you win and lose as a team, and right now we're finding a way to lose as a team. It's everyone through our lineup," Staal said. "We've got to come together and find a way to start playing better hockey and give ourselves a chance to win some hockey games."