Rangers drop opener 4-1 to 'Yotes

Radim Vrbata and the Phoenix Coyotes spoiled the beginning of a new era for the Rangers under coach Alain Vigneault, handing the Blueshirts a 4-1 loss in the season opener Thursday night.

Vrbata became the first player ever to score a hat trick against the Rangers on opening night; the 32-year-old veteran notched the go-ahead goal with a wrist shot in the second period and added a pair of goals in the final frame.

Hoping to shake an underwhelming preseason -- the Rangers went 1-5 in exhibition games -- the Rangers dropped the first of what will be a trying nine-game road trip. Granted, they'll have until Monday to regroup, possibly getting back captain Ryan Callahan in the process, but then it's four games in six nights including stops in Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and St. Louis.

Defensive-zone coverage was an area of concern for the Rangers, as was discipline. Though the Coyotes only scored once on the man-advantage, two other goals came soon after penalties expired.

A bright spot of the night? Defenseman Marc Staal continues to impress as he returns from a frightening eye injury that cost him more than half of last season. The 26-year-old scored a power-play marker in the second -- the team's only goal of the game -- while logging a team-high 25:40 of ice time.

And file this in the department of things you don't see very often: winger Rick Nash dropped the gloves late in the game against Martin Hanzal after the Coyotes alternate captain delivered a hard, high hit on Derek Stepan near the benches.

That was Nash's first regular-season fight in over four years.