The volcano didn’t erupt. In fact, for the first time all season, Rangers coach John Tortorella declined to discuss anything after a game. “It’s between me and the team,” he said.
Translation: The Rangers are in deep trouble and he didn’t want to pour salt in the wound.
The Islanders, who were eliminated from contention on Saturday, delivered a major blow to the Blueshirts post-season hopes, scoring four goals in the second period and hammering the hapless Rangers, 6-2 at the Nassau Coliseum. The eighth-place Blueshirts, who have scored just five goals in the last five games, lead the ninth-place Hurricanes by three points with four games to play. Carolina with 84 points, has a game in hand.
As for Tortorella’s troops, they were at a loss to explain their embarrassing performance, particularly defensively. “It’s very, very disappointing,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled after allowing four goals in 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 like after the Islanders-Penguins brawlfest earlier this season. But the Rangers have an even bigger wall to climb.
Coming into last night, the Rangers (41-32-5) had won four straight against the Islanders and outscored them 21-10. Eight goals had come on the power play, but last night, the man-advantage was anything but. The Rangers had seven power plays and nothing to show for it.
“They outbattled us tonight,” said Ryan Callahan. “And we didn’t have that defensive mindset. We realize what happened here tonight and we have to fix it. It comes down to a four-game season and we’ve got to be ready.”
And they may 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 team said, and did not return.
Even playing without their leading goal scorer, Michael Grabner, the Isles---down 1-0 on Vinny Prospal’s first-period goal----roasted Lundqvist, who had been 8-2-1 with a 1.61 GAA, in the second period. He was replaced by Chad Johnson, in his first appearance of the season, to start the third, and surrendered the fifth and sixth Islanders goals.
For the second consecutive game, the suddenly-sliding Rangers could not solve a backup goaltender---former Ranger Al Montoya (25 saves) last 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 struggling Blueshirts, who have scored just five goals in the last five games. “I really can’t describe it,” said Brian Boyle. “This was a huge game for us with playoff implications, and it just wasn’t there.”
It certainly was there for Blake Comeau, Radek Martinek, Jesse Joensuu and P.A. Parenteau, who scored in an 11:20 stretch of the second to put the game well out of reach.
As frustration set in, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery, Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko dropped the gloves in the third period with Jack Hillen, Michael Haley, Zenon Konopka and Dylan Reese , but for the Rangers, the fight in them had been long extinguished.