Games like this were inevitable, played with low energy and ripe with penalties, sloppiness, and opportunities left wanting.

For the Rangers it's games like last night, when they lost to the Penguins 3-0 at the Garden, when they have to find a way to overcome the speed bumps of this lockout-shortened season and find a way not to get shut out by the likes of Tomas Vokoun and his two conspiring goal posts.

"It was just a sloppy, sloppy game," said Rangers' alternate captain Brad Richards. "I've been part of them before, but this was just one of those nights that was sloppy all around for both teams, really. I can't imagine anybody saying either team played that well."

Though Vokoun was good in making 28 saves and not surrendering many rebounds, the Rangers didn't apply much pressure besides clanking his posts twice in the third period and were especially masochistic in their four fruitless power plays.

"We couldn't make passes, we couldn't make plays," Richards said. "It was just a mess. We didn't make it too tough on their goalie, and that's why he gets a shutout."

The Rangers (3-4-0), coming off two home wins against the Maple Leafs and Flyers, were trying to build momentum in their first game of the season playing without captain Ryan Callahan, out up to two weeks with a left shoulder injury.

Yet it didn't take long for the Penguins (4-3-0) to take the wind out of their sails. Just 1:24 into the game, Evgeni Malkin took the first shot of the contest and beat Henrik Lundqvist on a one-timer from the left circle, low on the near side, making it 1-0.

"It was not the start we were looking for," said Lundqvist, who made 26 saves in his seventh straight start to open the season and possibly could get a rest tomorrow night in Tampa. "I came across and I was kind of guessing and I didn't pick it up until it was in the net."

Things didn't get any better when the Rangers took their league-leading fourth too-many-men penalty late in the second period. As the Penguins' power play carried over into the third, James Neal deflected a hard pass from Sidney Crosby that snuck under the crossbar to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.