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Tortorella fingers refs for loss to Lightning

Anger and frustration were etched on John Tortorella’s face as he stomped to the mike at the post-game presser.

Anger and frustration were etched on John Tortorella’s face as he stomped to the mike at the post-game presser.

For three minutes and 41 seconds, until he walked away from the dais following the press briefing, Tortorella left no doubt what he thought of the officiating job performed by Ian Walsh and Kelly Sutherland in the Rangers’ 2-1 matinee loss to Tampa Bay. The Lightning swept the season series by an aggregate 11-10 margin.

The Rangers were penalized six consecutive times spanning the second and third periods, including a five-on-three for 1:57 early in the final 20 minutes that decided the game. Dan Girardi was called for boarding 71 seconds into the third, and Brian Boyle was penalized for delay of game 53 seconds later when he fired the puck over the glass. Vincent Lecavalier took advantage of the two-man advantage as he slammed the game-winning power play bullet from the left faceoff dot 2:40 into the third.

“We gave them [expletive] all night long and we get beat on a five-on-three. On a horsesh--t call to start it,” Tortorella seethed. “I just wish the league would stay the hell out of it and let the teams decide it. It’s bullsh--t. There’s too much at stake.

“We took some stupid penalties. But Danny Girardi’s is not a boarding call. Brian Boyle, that’s the rule and we end up down five-on-three. But it starts with Danny Girardi’s call, which is a simple guess. But we took some stupid penalties. (Brandon Dubinsky’s second period high-stick), Erik Christensen (second period interference), (Mats Zuccarello’s second period trip) on the back check. But we gave them nothing five-on-four. Nothing. And we get beat five-on-three and it starts with a bad call.”

Brandon Prust, who scored the Rangers’ lone goal, a short-handed breakaway in which he went around Lecavalier at the blue line, before shoving the puck under Dwayne Roloson to tie the match at 1-1 at 9:42 of the second period, added the Rangers’ seventh best penalty kill, “is good when you only have to kill two or three a game. When you have to kill six or seven against a team like that, they are going to kill you.”

What did not help matters was the Rangers’ inability to sustain offense. The official game sheet reported that the Rangers outshot Tampa, 23-19. However most were off-the rush attempts that Roloson (22 saves) could see. When the puck was in the Lightning’s end, their trap made it impossible for the Rangers to forecheck and cycle.

“When you have the puck in the corner, all their guys are around the faceoff circle. You come out of the corner with the puck and you’re staring at five of their guys. It’s tough to make a play and eventually you’re just trying throw the puck at the blue and hopefully you get a bounce and some guys going to the net,” Christensen said. “When you get the puck in the neutral zone and you’re getting pressured, it’s tough to make a soft, little chip. They’re really good at batting pucks out of the air and turning the other way with it. You either have to rim it hard enough where it gets by them or you can kind of soft chip it in the corner where it sits in the corner and it’s a race for the puck. We didn’t do either.”

Martin St. Louis, who assisted on Lecavalier’s game-winner, opened the scoring with a three-on-two slap shot from the right boards that beat Henrik Lundqvist (17 saves) 5:04 into the first period.

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