In the final home game of 2009, the Rangers hit rock bottom.
"I don't think we can take any positives from this game," Marian Gaborik said in the wake of last night's 6-0 shredding by the Flyers, the most lopsided loss of the season.
The rout prompted coach John Tortorella to say he thought his players didn't care.
After four wins and a fiery overtime loss to the Islanders, the Rangers dropped completely off the cliff at Madison Square Garden.
"Do I think they cared? No," he said. "I'm stumped. It was a [first] period I cannot understand - the soft passes, our turnaways, our turnovers, our coverages, right on through. I don't think Hank [Henrik Lundqvist] was sharp, either. This was a team effort."
For the fourth game in a row, the Rangers surrendered the first goal. Only 54 seconds after the puck dropped, the careless, seemingly indifferent play began at an alarming rate. Former Ranger Blair Betts, left to stand his ground in front, backhanded a shot past Lundqvist, who would be pulled after the Flyers scored twice more on the next 10 shots in the first period. Marc Staal's turnover led to Danny Briere's untouched glide to the doorstep at 11:51 and Michael Del Zotto and Donald Brashear combined to allow Claude Giroux's goal 1:37 later for a 3-0 bulge.
Tortorella, livid during a timeout, was baffled after the game. Unlike his public tirade after a 2-1 loss to the Islanders two weeks ago, Tortorella was controlled.
"If we have to have a coach losing his mind and making an idiot out of himself every five games, then we're beating our heads against the wall," he said. "It cannot be that way. We have to be more consistent. I don't have an answer as to why we played the game that way. I thought we practiced well, I thought we got enough rest, they were in good spirits. I just don't know why."
Sometimes, stats are the best way to illustrate the disparity of a dreadful performance: At one point near the end of the second period, Philadelphia had five goals; the Rangers had only nine shots.
Lundqvist yielded to rookie Chad Johnson, who made his NHL debut at the start of the second period and stopped 16 of 19 shots.
"In our zone, we have to be ready to battle," said Lundqvist, who will be back in the net Thursday night against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. "We just made it way too easy for them. Me, personally, I have to battle, too."
Even with a three-goal lead, the Flyers outworked the Rangers. Simon Gagne whipped the puck past Johnson's stick side on the first NHL shot the 23-year-old faced, and added his second of the game on a 5-on-3 at 14:41. Gagne completed his hat trick at 11:30 of the third as the Flyers breezed to their fourth consecutive victory heading into tomorrow's Winter Classic against the Bruins at Fenway Park.
"I was awful," said Brandon Dubinsky, who was on ice for four goals, including two of Gagne's.
"Nothing went right," Ryan Callahan said.