By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Sunday night the Blueshirt Faithful got their first look at the restored Madison Square Garden, were handed Blueshirts Are Back tee-shirts, and welcomed to their seats for the Rangers home opener by a group of the team's esteemed alumni, including Adam Graves, Eddie Giacomin and Ron Greschner.
What the fans did not get, though, on Sunday was a Rangers victory.
Beaten in all facets of the game, the Rangers were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. So bad did things get for the home team early on that Henrik Lundqvist, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, was pulled from the contest midway through the second period---the first time he had been removed from a game for a reason other than injury since March 31, 2011.
The final result dropped the Rangers to an 0-2-0 start following New York's 3-1 loss up in Boston to start the season on Saturday night. Meanwhile the Penguins have won two straight to open the 2013 campaign, jumping to an early lead in the Atlantic Division.
For the second straight game New York was shorthanded less than a minute into the contest, though unlike Saturday they were unable to kill off Brad Richards' interference penalty taken just 37 seconds into Sunday's match. James Neal ripped a shot past a screened Lundqvist at 1:48, putting the Blueshirts in a 1-0 hole.
The Rangers did manage to tie the game at 9:55 of the first period when Ryan Callahan swatted the rebound of a Richards shot past goaltender Tomas Vokoun during a 5-on-3 power play. However the Pens would score three straight goals---two on deflections---to knock Lundqvist from the game by the 9:11 mark of the second period.
Tyler Kennedy converted a rebound at 15:05 of the opening period and Matt Niskanen's slap shot off a clean Sidney Crosby face-off win ticked off Dan Girardi's skate and bwteen Lundqvist's pads at 18:50. When Pascal Dupuis scored at 9:11 of the middle period, Rangers coach John Tortorella had seen enough and sent Martin Biron in to play goal. Lundqvist allowed four goals on 18 shots in 29:11.
Biron played solidly in net, even helping the Blueshirts kill off all 1:55 worth of Pittsburgh's 5-on-3 power play that bridged the second and third periods. But Neal scored his second goal of the game 5:06 into the third period to put the Pens up 5-1.
Taylor Pyatt scored his first goal as a Ranger, converting a centering feed from Michael Del Zotto 58 seconds after Neal's goal to pull the Rangers a bit closer. Pyatt wasn't the only newcomer to make a splash, though, as Arron Asham engaged in a rousing fight with Tanner Glass just two seconds after the first puck drop, and Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal, breaking past Sidney Crosby, with 5:15 left to play to draw the Rangers within 5-3.