Last Updated: 11:45 AM, February 20, 2013
Posted: 12:01 AM, February 20, 2013
The amount of colorless adjectives to describe the Rangers’ 3-1 loss to the Canadiens last night at the Garden were plentiful. But instead of trying, just listen to coach John Tortorella make it as simple as possible.
“Two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were,” Tortorella said, ending his 60-second postgame press conference without protest. “Pretty much sums it up, huh?”
Yes, it does, as the Canadiens (11-4-1) and coach Michel Therrien found a way to resurrect the neutral-zone trapping Devils of the pre-2004 lockout, getting over the second game of a back-to-back by collapsing in, shutting down the middle of the ice, and taking advantage of opportunities when presented.
It didn’t help that the Rangers (8-6-1) were missing superstar forward Rick Nash, out with an undisclosed injury, along with penalty-kill specialist Darroll Powe. But Nash would have had to been electric to come close to giving the Rangers enough life to win. Instead, his absence ending the team’s five-game points streak as it heads to Ottawa and Montreal on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
“They play it extremely boring,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who shook off a monstrous second-period slap shot from P.K. Subban to his right shoulder and plowed on to make 15 saves. “They’re a smart team. They didn’t give up much and they were just waiting for mistakes.”
The one mistake that seemed to turn the tide came late in the second period with the Rangers up 1-0 on a goal from Anton Stralman. Chasing the puck whacked from the Canadiens zone back behind his own net — for what could have been time No. 359 during a game of chip-and-chase that would have been dizzying if not so tiring — Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto touched up what he thought would be an icing call.
Instead, linesman Mark Wheler decided there would be no stoppage, and the result was Habs sniper Max Pacioretty being left wide open in the high slot, a sharp wrister tying it 1-1.
“He didn’t explain himself,” Del Zotto said of his discussion with Wheler. “Three of us [on the ice] heard him calling for icing, and it ended up hurting us. It changes the momentum, definitely.”
Tortorella said the play was explained to him that because Del Zotto was shielding the oncoming forechecker and not focused on skating directly to the puck, the icing was called off.
“Doesn’t matter,” Tortorella said. “That doesn’t cost us the game, there’s no excuse there.”
What did cost them the game was an odd-man rush just over a minute into the third period, when defenseman Marc Staal got caught in the offensive zone after joining the rush and having his shot blocked. The resulting play started as a 3-on-1, and with Ryan Callahan the only aggressive backchecker, it ended with Alex Galchenyuk lifting a centering feed from former Ranger Brandon Prust to make it 2-1. “I knew once it got blocked that they had other guys going,” Staal said. “We were all upset it was a goal.”
Getting a power play with just over three minutes remaining, Tortorella pulled Lundqvist to get a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Rangers could never quite corral the puck long enough to get a good chance. Then with 1:06 remaining, Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz lobbed one into the open net, mercifully sending 17,200 fans home.
“I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve been involved in, both teams,” Tortorella said. “But they were better than we were.”