NEWARK -- Michael Del Zotto has been one of the rocks of the Rangers' defense throughout the postseason. But he had a supremely rough Game 4, so much so that John Tortorella sat the 21-year-old down barely a few minutes into the second period Monday night, allowing one of his mainstay defensemen just 4:11 of ice time over the final two periods.
"It was a struggle for him," Tortorella said. "He hasn't had many games like that this year. With the extra D we dressed, we just wanted to take a little pressure off him and let him watch for a bit."
Del Zotto came into the game second among NHL defensemen in the playoffs with nine points, and he actually managed to add to that total with an assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's goal in the third -- that was on one of the five shifts he took after a rocky first period.
Beyond that, there were massive troubles making simple plays at the point. Del Zotto was on for the Rangers' lone power play of the night, late in the first, but he fanned on a passing attempt that led to a shorthanded two-on-one for the Devils.
Only Dan Girardi's aggressive play on Parise broke up that chance. Del Zotto got a shift early in the second, but again lost the puck with little pressure at the point, leading to another odd-man rush for New Jersey.
After that, Tortorella had seen enough. Del Zotto didn't leave the Rangers bench until the 6:18 mark of the third, when Tortorella sent the defenseman to the penalty box to serve Mike Rupp's four-minute penalty.
It was 3-0 Devils by then, so Del Zotto got a couple of late shifts to try and create some offense, which he did with a rush up the ice and feed to Fedotenko for the lone Rangers goal. Del Zotto's night ended after exchanging cross-checks with Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Del Zotto had a difficult weekend, learning right after Saturday's Game 3 that his grandmother had passed away. He was not among the players available for comment following Monday night's game.
"He's a big part of our club," Tortorella said. "He'll bounce back."