BUFFALO -- After watching a shocking performance devoid of intensity in a 3-1 loss to the Sabres Tuesday night, coach John Tortorella unleashed a classically harsh rant, ripping his players for losing to a struggling 9-14-1 team and a backup goaltender who hadn't won since Nov. 26, 2011.
"I don't think the Sabres were a hungrier team. I thought we stunk, and I'm not going to give Buffalo any credit," Tortorella said. "I will give their third line credit. They outplayed our top players, and that can't happen. I couldn't be more disgusted and disappointed with the way our top guys played, the way we handled ourselves through it. That team was ripe to be beaten and we simply did not play the way we're supposed to play. I'm not gonna pick it apart . . . We have to get it straightened out. I don't know what else to tell you."
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On paper, it looked like a mismatch. Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers, who had won five of six, against Jhonas Enroth (0-10-3 in his previous 16 appearances) and the Sabres, who had dropped four straight.
Instead, with No. 1 netminder Ryan Miller out with a sinus infection, Enroth, 24, with 32 saves, posted the 'W' fairly easily. Marcus Foligno scored twice and Thomas Vanek netted his 14th of the season.
The Rangers' top players -- Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh -- struggled. The defensemen were on the ice for all three goals, the forwards for two each. By the third period, Gaborik was demoted to a third line with J.T. Miller and fourth-liner Micheal Haley was moved up to play with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan.
Tortorella asked reporters what his players said.
"We fell into their level," Gaborik said.
"We weren't good enough, we didn't come hard enough," Nash said.
Lundqvist said: "It's disappointing when you lose to a team -- I think we were the better team -- but we couldn't find a way to win. They were hungry around the net, a lot of times that's where games get decided, on both ends, in front of the nets, small, small plays."
After a scoreless first period, the Rangers committed four penalties in the second, killed them all, scored shorthanded to take the lead and ended up trailing 2-1.
With 13 seconds left on a penalty-kill with Darroll Powe off for tripping, Callahan raced down the left side with only Jordan Leopold back. He found Stepan in front for his seventh of the season at 4:17 of the second.
The lead didn't last long. Christian Ehrhoff's shot bounced off the boards and Foligno grabbed it and stuffed it inside the post at 5:35. Vanek caught up with Jason Pominville's perfect cross-ice pass that banked off the boards at midice, and the Sabres' leading scorer beat Lundqvist high from 20 feet at 12:40. Foligno scored again in the third.
So, after an impressive 4-1 win in Washington on Sunday, the Rangers slipped to 4-5-1 on the road with two more on this trip.