- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
BOSTON -- It was a night of unfamiliar territory for newest Ranger Rick Nash. An Original Six matchup with a new team, new linemates in a new conference, but Nash wasn't looking around for guidance or direction after his Blueshirts debut.
Nash stood tall in the middle of the cramped visitors dressing room, hands clasped behind his back, head bowed slightly as he fielded questions following the team's 3-1 season-opening loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Both on the ice and after the game, Nash provided a glimpse into what he can and will be to this Rangers team: a star player and veteran leader aware of the expectations that come along with such a role.
When it came time to reflect on one that got away from the Rangers, who started the game on their heels and squandered a vital 5-on-3 power-play opportunity in the third, Nash didn't use lockout rust as an excuse.
"There's been a lot of hype the last 10 days or so to play this game. We didn't come out the way we wanted to and we didn't quite finish the chances we had, but it's over, and we get another one tomorrow night," said Nash, who played 21:41 over 28 shifts.
Nash's size and strength were apparent Saturday night, the type of big body in front of the net the Rangers need. He registered his first point by helping to set up Brad Richards' second-period marker, assisting on the Rangers' lone goal of the night. But, like most everyone battling the cobwebs of a long layoff, he wasn't yet in midseason form.
"You could see how he uses his body with the puck. I like his strength on the puck, he does the work on the wall," coach John Tortorella said. "He wasn't great tonight, either, but you certainly can see the type of player he's going to be for us."
Nash's best scoring chance of the night drew a hooking penalty on Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and gave the Rangers a pivotal 5-on-3 power play with a chance to tie the game 4:23 into the third period. Trailing 2-1, the Rangers' top unit struggled moving the puck and failed to cash in; Nash's offensive-zone penalty wiped out the remaining 20 seconds of 5-on-4 time.
"We've got to get a better chance. We were prepared before. We knew exactly what they were going to do. We couldn't execute out there," Nash said. "That was a huge turning point. I don't know if we had a shot, so that was definitely a momentum swing in their favor."
Nash spent the majority of the game on a line with veteran center Richards and Carl Hagelin. Although Tortorella tinkered with their left wing a few times in the first, he kept the Richards-Nash tandem together while the two tried to forge some chemistry.
Both players felt progress was made there.
"There's not a lot of ice with Chara playing in front of him – that's kind of a hard matchup your first time playing with somebody -- but you know when the goal was scored, [Nash] showed you what he could do with his body a few times down low," Richards said.
The Bruins seemed to zero in on Nash, making a concerted effort to exert their gritty, bruising style on him. But the 6-foot-4, 216-pound winger didn't shy away from the physicality, tussling near the crease with Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference during the game.
"We'll get to know his tendencies, and there's gonna be a lot of loose pucks when he does that stuff because he draws a lot of bodies to him," Richards said. "That's something I've got to pick up on."
The good news for Nash?
His first game as a Ranger was spoiled by the loss, but he'll have the chance to make his celebrated Broadway debut Sunday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He's eager for that opportunity.
"Anytime after a loss you want to get out there, right away," Nash said. "That's the great thing about sports. We have another chance to correct ourselves tomorrow night."
Nash, far from midseason form, shows Rangers a glimpse of what to expect.