- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At least John Tortorella is never shy with his opinion.
The fiery Rangers coach let his team have it Tuesday night after they lost to Buffalo 3-1, ripping his club for surrendering a game to a struggling Sabres squad that entered the match 3-5-2 in their previous 10 games.
“We suck, and we suck at a time we can’t suck,” Tortorella told reporters in Buffalo. “So we have to get it straightened out. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Actually, he had plenty else to say, including calling out his team’s top performers, who failed to build on Derek Stepan’s shorthanded goal in the second period, which gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“I couldn’t be more disgusted and disappointed with the way our top guys played, with the way we handled ourselves through it,” Tortorella said. “That team was ripe to be beaten and we simply did not play the way we’re supposed to play.”
Tortorella seemed enraged that he had to answer for his team, urging the media to direct their questions at the players responsible for the team’s dispiriting loss.
“Did you ask them? Did you ask them any questions?” Tortorella said. “I don’t know why I always have to answer all these questions. You should ask them occasionally about what happened.”
“I have to play better,” Gaborik said. “I need to be more consistent. The goals haven’t been going [in] for me, so I have to keep working hard.”
At first blush, Gaborik’s numbers don’t appear that bad. He is, after all, second on the team in both goals (8) and scoring (17) behind Nash. But the streaky sniper has been inconsistent and sometimes completely invisible for the Rangers.
The three-time 40-goal scorer has scored only once in the last 12 games and in only five games total of the Rangers 25 contests.
Think those trade rumors are going to stop now?
Tortorella didn’t just blast his own players. He was far from diplomatic about the Sabres after the game, despite the fact they were missing their starting goaltender, Ryan Miller, who was sidelined with a sinus infection.
“I don’t think the Sabres were the hungrier team, I thought we stunk,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to give Buffalo any credit. I will give their third line credit, they outplayed our top players and that can’t happen.”
All this drama sets the stage for a captivating matchup Thursday when the Rangers travel to Winnipeg for an important road game against the Jets.
With a middling 13-10-2 record, the Rangers retain the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, but their clutch on 8th place will be threatened as the Jets look to leapfrog New York in the standings.
The Jets also have 28 points; they enter the match at home with a 6-3-1 record in the past 10 games.
Tortorella said what he needed to say. Now it’s up to his players to respond.
39dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald