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Slow Start Leads to Loss Against Blues

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

For the third time in four games this season, the Rangers surrendered the first goal of the game in the opening period.

All three of those games resulted in a loss, including Tuesday's 3-1 defeat against the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden.

Carl Gunnarsson scored just 15 seconds into the contest and the Blues never trailed in the game. Mika Zibanejad scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season, but that was all goaltender Carter Hutton would allow as he stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced.

"We just started out slow again," said Ryan McDonagh, who was a minus-1 in a team-high 24:07 of ice time. "Took a while - took us a whole period basically - to start moving our legs and getting engaged. That was the difference.

"That's on myself and the other leaders, the older guys in here, we've got to find a way to get this group going right from the start," he added. "Understand the importance of a good first shift, keeping it simple. Certainly it's the worst when you give up a goal right in the first 20 seconds or whatever it was."

Jaden Schwartz carried the puck into the Rangers' zone and attracted three Blueshirts to him, leaving the defenseman Gunnarsson alone in front, who beat Henrik Lundqvist for his second goal of the season.

Zibanejad's power play goal - his fourth such tally of the year - knotted things just 2:07 later. Zibanejad became the second Ranger in franchise history to score in each of the team's first four games of the season.

Video: STL@NYR: Zibanejad buries PPG from the back door

The Blues would strike again before the period was over with a power play goal of its own. Brayden Schenn banked a pass of Lundqvist from below the goal line that found its way in under the crossbar to give St. Louis the 2-1 advantage.

Despite 16 shots on goal in the third period, including a shorthanded breakaway by Michael Grabner, New York was unable to solve Hutton, who is 3-0 in four career games against the Rangers. St. Louis iced the game with an empty-net goal with 1:47 remaining.

The Rangers have led in just one game this season, its only win that came on Sunday against Montreal. It all comes back to starts, with Kevin Shattenkirk stating the Blueshirts are trying to do too much off the hop while still trying establish who they are as a team.

"I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it," said Shattenkirk, who picked up an assist on Zibanejad's goal. "We need to focus early on in making simple plays, getting pucks in their zone, grinding away a little bit. I think we're trying to make it look like an All-Star game out there too early on when we haven't established our identity, which is putting pucks in, going to work. We're good when we play fast all over the ice and we seem to try to just make it too complicated early on."

While the Rangers are just four games into an 82-game schedule, Lundqvist said the time to get things moving in the right direction is now.

"It's important that we get the urgency and realize how important the next game is and the game after that," said Lundqvist, who made 20 saves. "You have to see it as a big game every night. It's going to be a tight race this year and if you want to be in it, when it comes down to it, you have to ready now even though it's October."

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