When the Rangers last visited Newark for a hockey game, they left with their heads in their hands and a long, long offseason ahead of them.
They were back on Tuesday night and the only difference is that they won't have much delay until the next time they take the ice. The Devils thumped the Rangers 3-1 in a game that looked a lot like last year's Eastern Conference finals.
You had Martin Brodeur outplaying Henrik Lundqvist in the battle of the goalies, you had a pathetic Rangers power play failing to take advantage of golden opportunities, you had Adam Henrique scoring a big goal for the Devils and fresh-faced Rangers forwards outshining their veteran counterparts. Everything old was new again.
For the Devils, this is obviously good news. The loss of Zach Parise has left the team a little short on scoring, but their defense remains as good as any in the league and Brodeur's performance at this age would be suspicious if not for his physique.
They look to be pretty much the same team as they were last year, in other words. The Rangers, though, only look like the same team as they were at the disappointing end of the season.
Marian Gaborik grabbed some space on the bench Tuesday night and Brad Richards has been demoted from the top line, giving pretty good hints about who John Tortorella was talking about when he said there were too many players playing scared and tentative hockey at the moment. It doesn't help that Ryan Callahan was joined on the scratch list by a "banged-up" Dan Girardi, but the rest of the Rangers didn't do much to make up for their absence by kicking the energy up to the necessary level.
It was encouraging to see Chris Kreider back on the ice and 2011 first rounder J.T. Miller looked perfectly at home in his NHL debut, but it isn't a step in the right direction that the two of them were about the only players to do more good than bad on Tuesday night. The power play, now 3-for-35 on the season, is a nightly horror show and it is fair to wonder if Tortorella knows how to get things on track in that area after a season-long struggle last year.
The Rangers need to get back to being the team they were in the regular season last year. There's been too much of the team they were against the Devils in the playoffs, something that those Devils were more than happy to use to their advantage on Tuesday.