Rangers coach John Tortorella had laced into his team just 24 hours earlier. So when the volcano didn't erupt after a 6-2 pasting at the hands of the Islanders Thursday night, who could argue?
"It's between me and the team," said Tortorella, who declined to address any issues about his postgame comments in the locker room.
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Translation: The Rangers are in deep trouble.
The Islanders, who were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, delivered a major blow to the Blueshirts' postseason hopes, scoring four goals in the second period and hammering the hapless Rangers, 6-2, at Nassau Coliseum.
The eighth-place Rangers, who have scored only five goals in the last five games, lead the ninth-place Hurricanes by three points with four games to play. Carolina has a game in hand.
As for Tortorella's troops, they were at a loss to explain their embarrassing performance. "It's very, very disappointing," said Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 11 shots in the second period. "It just felt like they were a lot more hungry than we were."
At the end of the lopsided match, which ended with four fights in the third period, a metal gate separating the two dressing rooms was erected again, just as it was after the Islanders-Penguins brawl earlier this season. But the Rangers have an even bigger wall to climb.
Entering Thursday night, the Rangers had won four straight against the Islanders and outscored them 21-10. Eight goals had come on the power play, but Thursday night, the Rangers had eight power plays and nothing to show for it. "They outbattled us," Ryan Callahan said. "And we didn't have that defensive mind-set. It comes down to a four-game season and we have to be ready."
And the Rangers might have to play at least one of them without Marian Gaborik, whose first-period shoulder hit from behind that drove Frans Nielsen head-first into the boards will be reviewed by the league. Nielsen suffered a head injury, the Islanders said, and did not return.
Despite playing without their leading goal-scorer, Michael Grabner, the Islanders -- down 1-0 on Vinny Prospal's first-period goal -- roasted Lundqvist in the second period. He was replaced by Chad Johnson, in his first appearance of the season, to start the third.
For the second straight game, the Rangers could not solve a backup goaltender -- former Ranger Al Montoya (25 saves) Thursday night and Jhonas Enroth in a 1-0 loss in Buffalo.
Prospal's goal, at 14:25 of the first period, was the first goal in 127:46 for the Rangers. "I really can't describe it," Brian Boyle said. "This was a huge game for us with playoff implications, and it just wasn't there."
There were four fights in the third period as the Rangers' frustration set in, but by then, the fight in the Blueshirts had been long extinguished.