Ryan McDonagh was livid. So livid that the Rangers' captain was searching for words after Monday night's 6-2 trouncing by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, which tied the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
"It's embarrassing," McDonagh said after the Rangers disintegrated at Madison Square Garden, allowing a hat trick by Tyler Johnson in the first 38:17 and three power-play goals. "There are a lot of things you want to say right now, but talking doesn't do much. Our guys better figure it out quickly and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team. It's tough to say at this stage where we're at. We have to learn from this example because who knows what can happen now down the stretch."
The stretch starts Wednesday. The next two games are in Tampa, where the Lightning won an NHL-best 38 games this season.
Monday night's final score also ended the Rangers' NHL- record streak of playoff games decided by one goal at 15.
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The Blueshirts are 10-16 in Game 2s in the playoffs since they won the Stanley Cup in 1994, with only one of those wins coming at home.
In many ways, the game was reminiscent of the three regular- season losses against the Lightning in which Tampa Bay outscored them 15-7. But the Lightning, sparked by Johnson, rebounded with flair, speed and skill to send the Rangers to their worst playoff defeat since a 6-1 loss to the Devils in 2006. That was Henrik Lundqvist's first playoff start.
"In Game 1, we participated in a hockey game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "In Game 2, we came to win a hockey game. It was ultimately our will that was different."
With the Rangers trailing 3-2 early in the third, the wide-open pace continued and Tampa Bay pulled away. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped Rick Nash's break-in and Jesper Fast's rebound before Derek Stepan went to the box for tripping. Seven seconds after the Rangers killed the penalty, Alex Killorn buried a pretty pass from Victor Hedman for a 4-2 lead at 3:09.
After Derick Brassard went off for high-sticking, Steve Stamkos' deflection made it 5-2 on a power play at 6:28. Killorn's second goal wrapped it up at 17:58.
"It's 3-2 after all that sloppiness," McDonagh said. "We continued to be undisciplined, continued to not play hard in front of our net." The penalties were "uncharacteristic . . . Those are penalties we can control.''
An early five-on-three for 1:07 turned into a disaster for Martin St. Louis. The veteran forward stumbled in the offensive zone, losing the puck. Johnson raced down ice and put his rebound through Lundqvist as St. Louis crashed into the goalie and the post knocking the net off its moorings. The initial signal was no goal, but a video review overruled the call, making it 1-0.
Chris Kreider's sixth goal of the playoffs on a power play tied the score at 8:50. Dan Boyle's point shot was deflected by St. Louis and bounced to Kreider, near the right post, and he beat Bishop at 8:50.
Johnson buried his second on a four-on-three at 11:15. His third -- and 11th of the playoffs -- came when Ondrej Palat's wrister hit the post and Johnson poked the puck past a sprawled Lundqvist at 10:38 of the second.
Stepan, with his third goal in three games, trimmed the lead to 3-2 when he banked a shot from behind the net off a fallen Braydon Coburn and across the goal line at 14:17. That was the closest the Rangers would come.
"You can play really well, you can play really hard," Lundqvist said, "but it you don't play smart, you're not going to win."