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 tonight’s 6-0 shredding by the Flyers, the most lopsided loss of the season,  a defeated that prompted coach John Tortorella to say he thought his players didn’t care.

             After four wins and a fiery third period in an 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 initial goal. Just 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.”

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                Sometimes, stats are the best way to illustrate the disparity of dreadful performance: At one point near the end of the second period last night, Philadelphia had five goals; the Rangers had just nine shots. It was the first time the Blueshirts have been blanked all season; journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton’s made 22 saves for his first shutout in six years.

                Lundqvist yielded to rookie Chad Johnson, whose NHL debut at the start of the second period, pointed to the coverage and lack of effort.          

                 “In our zone, we have to be ready to battle,” said Lundqvist, who will be back in the net tonight for his 14th straight start. “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 Blueshirts, who face the Hurricanes in Carolina Thursday. 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. In between, Johnson, who was acquired at last summer’s draft from the Penguins for a fifth-round pick, made 16 saves. Gagne completed his hat trick---the injury-plagued veteran’s first since November 2005--- at 11:30 of the third period, as the Flyers breezed to their fourth consecutive victory heading into Friday’s Winter Classic against the Bruins in Fenway Park. “I was awful,” said Brandon Dubinsky, who was on ice for four goals, including two of Gagne’s.

                Meanwhile, the Rangers’ five power plays were ineffective. Passes didn’t connect, offsides were frequent, shots were blocked by Flyers or missed wide.  “Nothing went right,” said Ryan Callahan. Indeed.

Extra quotes:

 

Tortorella: "The best thing for us right now is to get on a plane and

play. Obviously, there has to be some discussion on certain situations but we have to start over."

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On Chad Johnson: "It''s a tough position for a kid to come into his first game into this storm or whatever you want to call it. I like the way he settled in."

 

Johnson: "It was 40 minutes and if I get a start down the road from it, then I'll have been in a game situation. The biggest thing is adjusting to different players' shots."

 

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Marian Gaborik: "We weren't ready. They got three quick goals and then nothing was working out for us. We just blew the whole game. It is obviously unacceptable. We need to redeem ourselves."

 

Brandon Dubinsky: "I committed turnovers that cost us goals and I know I have to be better. This team relies on me a lot and I let them down tonight." 

 

By the Numbers:

 

The Rangers (18-17-4) outshot the Flyers 12-2 in the third...Simon Gagne had four points....Mike Richards had two assists...Claude Giroux had a goal and assist...Dan Briere had a goal and assist...Jeff Carter had two assists...The Flyers blocked 19 shots...It was the Rangers first game without Vinny Prospal (knee surgery)...