The start was there, but for the second time in as many nights, the finish wasn't.
The Rangers dominated the opening period and took the lead in the second, but the New Jersey Devils scored the next three to take the first game in the Battle of the Hudson, 3-2, Saturday at Madison Square Garden to drop the Rangers to 1-5 on the young season.
"We know what's expected of us," said Ryan McDonagh. "We're not performing. We're not playing the way we need to play. Every single one of us. We've got maybe one or two guys going a night. That's not a winning formula."
The Blueshirts had a 14-3 shot advantage in the game's first 20 minutes but were unable to solve goaltender Keith Kinkaid.
Video: NJD@NYR: Nash, Desharnais combine for pretty goal
Despite Rick Nash scoring his first goal of the season 5:31 into the middle frame, the momentum swung decidedly in the visitors' favor. New Jersey evened the score at 10:21 of the second on a goal by Adam Henrique, and took the lead 6:20 later on a tally by Miles Wood to cap a period that saw the Devils outshoot the Rangers, 12-3.
The culprit for the change in fortune? Turnovers, which the Rangers committed 16 with another seven takeaways by New Jersey over 60 minutes of play.
"We had way too many turnovers in the neutral zone in the second period," Nash said. "We couldn't establish a forecheck. I remember a stretch on the bench where we turned over four or five times in a row. That was the difference in the second."
New Jersey scored just a minute into the third period on a power play goal by Drew Stafford to double its lead. Kevin Shattenkirk scored with 56.8 seconds remaining, but the Rangers could not find the equalizer despite outshooting the Devils, 14-4, in the third.
Video: NJD@NYR: Shattenkirk buries long-range one-timer
Ondrej Pavelec made 16 saves in his first start as a Ranger and said the lack of work in the first period prevented him from getting into a groove early.
"We didn't give them much, especially the first period," he said. "I had a hard time getting into the game and get some shots there. It's too bad right now that we didn't get the two points because we really need it."
Coach Alain Vigneault said he saw for half the game the way he wants his team to play. And with an off day on Sunday, he and his players have to just get back to practice on Monday and continue to work towards putting together a 60-minute effort.
"We're going to get to work Monday and we're going to focus on the areas we need to improve and that's what we can control right now. We need to control that," he said. "We showed probably in tonight's game for 35 minutes that we can play a real strong game, quick checking and play fast with the puck. We need to obviously capitalize more on our opportunities right now and we're going to continue to work come Monday."