A playoff team, to steal one of John Tortorella’s favorite expressions, finds a way to earn at least two points in consecutive games against opponents ripe for the picking, like the Sabres and Islanders were.
Instead, the Rangers allowed a goaltender making his 10th NHL start to record his first NHL shutout against them Wednesday. Then a team, who recognized Thursday night’s match as merely vital beforehand, were thoroughly embarrassed by their suburban rivals, 6-2.
“You’re not getting much out of me tonight,” Tortorella said. “That’s between me and the team. I am not addressing anything.”
It might be an idea to address the fact that the margin for error is non-existent, not with Carolina three points back and four games remaining for both the Hurricanes and Rangers. The Rangers will attempt to regroup today and tomorrow before Sunday’s nationally televised matinee in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, what may be their most important game of the season will occur Saturday in the Coliseum when the Islanders host the Hurricanes.
The Rangers actually led 1-0 at the end of the first period, on Vinny Prospal’s sixth goal of the year at 14:25. He one-timed a Marian Gaborik feed that Al Montoya (25 saves) never had a chance on. The advantage was lipstick on a pig as the Islanders had dominated territorially and Henrik Lundqvist ended up having to stop 11 shots in the period.
Any illusion that the Rangers might be able to steal a win met brutal reality in the second period. Blake Comeau and Radek Martinek scored consecutive goals in a 33 span (3:24 and 3:57). Jesse Joensuu (13:28) and P.A. Parenteau (14:44) potted back-to-back markers in 1:16 to push the Islanders lead to 4-1. Lundqvist was pulled before the start of the third. He had allowed four goals on 22 shots in his 22nd straight start.
Still, Lundqvist was blameless Ranger for the team’s listlessness on Long Island. The Islanders finished with 33 shots and were in the Rangers’ zone all night. Lundqvist also had nothing to do with an impotent power play that went 0-8 with nine shots in 12:43 of ice time
“We weren’t good enough, my line, in the defensive zone,” Ryan Callahan mea culpa’d. The top line of Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky were a combined minus-eight. “We consider ourselves as one of the top lines on this team and we have to be better this time of year.”
With the game out of reach, the third period devolved into a fistic exhibition. Dubinsky fought Jack Hillen after the Islanders defenseman had elbowed him. Michael Haley bloodied Sean Avery in a decisive center ice bout. Dylan Reese and Ruslan Fedotenko fought in the corner.
Tortorella had a bemused look on his face following the Reese-Fedotenko fight and appeared to yell towards the Islanders bench.
“I can’t blame him,” Jack Capuano said when asked if Tortorella had mocked the Islanders, before explaining that he wanted to allow players who do not normally receive power play time a shift with the man advantage. When pressed to detail exactly what had been said, Capuano noted, “I don’t know exactly what he said.”
Matt Moulson and the recently reinstated from suspension Trevor Gillies recorded goals on Chad Johnson (nine saves on 11 shots) in the third, while Brandon Prust’s pinball goal with 14 seconds remaining closed the scoring.