Rangers head coach John Tortorella summed up his team's perplexing Thursday night showing succinctly in his postgame comments.
"We laid an egg."
That egg was conspicuously present on the Garden scoreboard as the Rangers were shutout by a team that, on average, allows the second most goals in the NHL. And if you're thinking the Blueshirts were merely confounded by a hot goalkeeper at a bad time, Tortorella confirmed what most could see from the upper press box. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec was good, but far from great. The Rangers just couldn't muster many high percentage scoring chances.
"He wasn't hot," Tortorella said of Pavelec. "We didn't play well."
The bench boss noted that it was a "team effort" behind the loss, but one player seems to have drawn some particular attention from Tortorella -- at least in the game. After a rather lax backchecking effort on the Thrashers' third goal of the night, Marian Gaborik didn't see the ice again, skating for less than two minutes in the third period.
Tortorella declined to address the matter in the press conference.
"I'm not going to get into individual players. A number of people didn't play a lot of minutes. It's not the time or place to be talking about that stuff."
Despite the loss, and with it the ability to control their own playoff fate, the Rangers were keeping their heads up in the locker room and trying to focus on the final game to come.
"It's going to leave a bad taste in our mouths," Brian Boyle said of the loss. "It's going to be good to get out on the ice tomorrow."
"We had a good start, but after the first 10 minutes or so we got on our heels a little bit and couldn't get it back," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We've got to make sure [Saturday] we're not only ready to start the game but ready to play the full 60. We're out of control [of the playoffs] but we control how we approach practice and how we approach the next game. We gotta do it like pros. We've got to have a short memory and as far as I know we're still in eighth place."
That latter fact could change with a Carolina win over the Thrashers tomorrow night. Regardless, for the second season in a row, the Rangers' playoff fate will come down to Game 82. Dubinsky said the team will certainly be drawing from the lessons learned from last season's shoot-out ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on the season's final day.
"The pain that we felt after we lost that game ... that's something that's going to light the fire and burn hot," the alternate captain said.
What may burn the most though is the knowledge that their fate is now out of their hands.
"It's a disappointment," Boyle said. "Every guy in here has worked hard all year. Now it's up in the air. Now we need a bounce."