Growing pains show as Rangers lose to Predators 4-1

The New York Rangers did a good job of masking any growing pains adjusting to a new coach and system through is first three games.

That changed Thursday, as the Rangers were upended 4-1 by a Nashville Predators team that had lost three of its first four games.

Cole Smith scored twice in the first period, and a pair of tallies in the second ended Igor Shesterkin’s night prematurely.

“Sometimes you find a way to win a game. That wasn’t a game I thought we deserved to win at all,” explained Jacob Trouba. “Definitely our worst game of the season thus far.”

The loss evens the Rangers record to 2-2-0 this season.

Related: Not more Patrick Kane rumors again

Nashville Predators 4 vs New York Rangers 1

NHL: Nashville Predators at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers struggled to generate much offense, as the Predators did a strong job of clogging the neutral zone and snuffing out any forecheck opportunities when the Rangers did break through.

Cole’s pair of goals came 4:58 apart late in the first period. His second came after he served a minor penalty for interference. During the ensuing power play, K’Andre Miller’s pass at the Nashville blueline skipped over Erik Gustafsson’s stick. Cole exited the penalty box and scooped up the loose puck and beat Shesterkin on a breakaway.

Ryan O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg each had power play goals in the second period, the latter of which ended Shesterkin’s night. He allowed four goals on 18 shots before giving way to a debuting Jonathan Quick. He stopped all nine shots he faced.

Adam Fox scored the Rangers’ only goal on the power play with 41.1 seconds remaining the second period.

There’s no reason for anyone to panic four games into an 82-game season. There were bound to be hiccups early in the season with a new coaching staff and system in place, though Chris Kreider wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“No,” he said when asked if the team was overthinking adjusting to a new system. “We got the system.”

But points are points. In the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division, leaving any on the table could be the difference between a Game 7 at home or even qualifying for the playoffs at all.

The Rangers have left four on the table in the season’s first week, including a loss last weekend in Columbus.

The difference between Saturday and Thursday, according to Laviolette, was simple: compete level.

“Obviously a tough night for us,” he said. “We didn’t do enough of a lot of things to be successful tonight. That’s frustrating and disappointing.”

Thursday’s performance was the least-promising of the young campaign. The offensive struggles, including a season-low 25 shots on goal, were evident. But more concerning were the opportunities the Rangers offered Nashville, including eight odd-man rushes and two breakaways against.

New York now embarks on a five-game road trip starting Saturday night in Seattle before heading to western Canada.

“Move on from this and learn from it and take it into the next game,” said Fox, who has five points through four games. “It’s important to get the road trip off on the right foot.”

Rangers Notes

  • Jonathan Quick made his Rangers debut and stopped all 9 shots faced in relief
  • Igor Shesterkin struggled, allowing 4 goals on 18 shots
  • Adam Fox registered the lone goal for the Blueshirts
  • Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad recorded assists

The Rangers have a travel day scheduled for Friday and will take on the Kraken in Seattle this Saturday with a 10 p.m. ET puck drop.

Matt Calamia spent six seasons as a digital content producer and writer for the New York Rangers. Prior to... More about Matt Calamia

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