TAMPA Fla. - The Rangers have been riding a few players to some success this season. John Tortorella would like to see the rest of his team step forward - particularly Marian Gaborik, who was fairly invisible in last night's 5-3 loss to the Lightning that was a 5-0 rout after two lifeless Ranger periods.
"He's supposed to be our best player," Tortorella said. "I looked at [Tampa's] best players, they looked pretty good tonight. I didn't see our best player."
Tortorella didn't see much of anything from his team as it fell behind by five goals and mustered only seven shots through 40 minutes.
The Rangers' load-carriers - Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal - were no match for the Lightning's elite forwards as Tampa scored on its first two power-play chances and cut through the Rangers with ease.
Henrik Lundqvist returned after a rare two-game absence and was hung out to dry, so much so that Tortorella asked Lundqvist if he wanted to stay in for the third. Lundqvist stayed and finished with 29 saves and no blame on any of the goals.
"Hank's been the backbone here since before I came here. When he's played lately, we haven't played very well for him," Dubinsky said. "It just stinks. He's always been there for us. We have to come better prepared. It's a two-way road."
The Rangers were not prepared for Steven Stamkos, the NHL's leading scorer, and his veteran sidekick, Marty St. Louis. Stamkos had room to operate on the Tampa power play from his off-wing in the right faceoff circle and Ryan Malone swept in rebounds of two Stamkos shots for the opening scores, the first power-play goals allowed by the Rangers in the last 25 chances over seven games.
In the second, Tortorella switched up his lines, moving Gaborik to the right side with Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and Callahan to the left with Derek Stepan and Alex Frolov. The Gaborik line got trapped in deep and Staal fell on a high clear, leaving space for an odd-man rush and for Stamkos to finish it with his league-best 21st goal 4:53 into the second.
Steve Eminger, Brian Boyle and Stepan scored in the third, Stepan's coming on a two-man advantage with 1:04 left and far too late to please anyone.
Especially Tortorella. "There's been a group of guys that have done a lot of good things for us - I thought they looked tired tonight," he said. "We need the other handful to come to play."
This was the fourth game this month that got away from the Rangers in an ugly fashion - losses to the Flyers, Caps and Avalanche were especially bad.
"It just shows everybody needs to buy in," Callahan said. "If we don't have everybody doing what they need to, it's not going to work."