Rangers coach John Tortorella delivered a succinct postgame news conference that pretty much summed up the Rangers' 3-1 loss to Montreal on Tuesday night.
“I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “Both teams. But they were better than we were.”
Employing a strategy that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist characterized as both “boring” and “smart,” the streaking Habs stymied the Rangers by clogging up the neutral zone and exploiting mistakes with their transition game as they rolled to their fifth straight win.
Neither team created much offensively -- the two clubs combined for a meager eight shots on goal in the first period -- but the Habs capitalized on a couple of opportunities whereas the Rangers did not.
“Just two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were,” Tortorella said.
With his team trailing 1-0 in the second period, Montreal’s Max Pacioretty scored the tying goal late in the frame, sparking some controversy on the Rangers' bench in the process. Several players on the ice thought they heard a linesman signal an icing call, although the anticipated call was never whistled as Pacioretty notched the equalizer at 18:45.
Tortorella said he received an explanation after the play -- that a linesman felt defenseman Michael Del Zotto was shielding the puck and thus called a “no icing” -– and said that the no-call was an insufficient excuse, regardless.
With the game tied early in the third period, defenseman Marc Staal had a shot blocked that wound up going the other way -– a play that ended up being the difference in the game.
“Throughout the game we kept telling ourselves to be patient with it, get pucks in deep. We tried to focus on not turning the puck over. The whole game it looked like we were going to do that and be the better of the two teams,” captain Ryan Callahan said. “Unfortunately, in the third, we turn one over, got a 3-on-1 against us, and it ends up being the winner.”
Down 2-1 late in the third, the Rangers were awarded a power play with 3:06 remaining in regulation, but the team’s anemic unit came up short once again.
Entering the game ranked dead last in the league with an 11.3 percent success rate, the Rangers were 0-for-2 on the man advantage Tuesday night.
“We have to capitalize on that,” said Callahan.
With their fifth straight win and second in as many nights, the Canadiens grabbed the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 22 points as the Rangers slipped out of eighth place.
“The game was out there for us to take and win,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “It was their back-to-back game and we were fresh, but we couldn’t get that second goal to get that momentum back in our favor.”