Commentary

Tortorella's timeout turns the tide

Rangers regroup, roll to victory over Senators in playoff opener at the Garden

Updated: April 14, 2012, 12:22 AM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- With his team nursing a 1-0 lead in the second period, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella sensed a shift in play. The pressure from the Ottawa Senators wasn't exactly stifling, but it was steadily mounting.

Tortorella wanted to give his players some time to collect themselves and regroup.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tortorella
Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty ImagesJohn Tortorella made all the right moves from the Rangers' bench.

So, with 10:09 left, he called a timeout.

It may have just changed the game.

Following the brief respite, the Rangers turned the tables on Ottawa, wresting momentum with a pair of goals while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stymied the Senators on the other end. Tortorella recognized what was a pivotal moment and the Rangers harnessed it to roll toward a 4-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

"They were coming pretty hard," center Brian Boyle said. "He just wanted to settle us down."

Before the break in action, the Senators had unleashed four straight shots against Lundqvist, who was resolute despite the pressure. With a TV timeout approaching at the midway point of the second period, Tortorella recognized a window to slow things down.

"It's not like they were burying us with chances," Tortorella said of what forced his decision. "They just had puck possession."

The move could've been of minimal importance had the Rangers not responded as they did. The team outshot the Senators 8-2 for the remainder of the period, and Marian Gaborik and Boyle combined for a pair of goals late in the frame to give New York a comfortable 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

"We weren't holding on to it and they were getting momentum, but we handled it," Brad Richards said. "We got back on the right track there at the end of the second. It was probably a turning point in the game there."

Richards tallied his 22nd career playoff goal 2:15 in the third to complete a trio of Rangers goals scored within a span of 5:51. The Senators rallied back late in the third, but could not surmount the four-goal deficit.

After Tortorella's coaching call changed the complexion of the game, the Rangers re-established their play: blocking shots, banging bodies and relishing the hard-nosed identity they have so carefully and consciously cultivated.

And as they have so often this season, the Rangers received a terrific performance from Lundqvist to support the effort. He stopped 30 shots in an outing that was so strong the fans were chanting his name even after his shutout bid was spoiled by Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson at 10:05 of the third.

"That's what he's been doing for us all year," said defenseman Dan Girardi, who finished with an assist and team-high 26:41 of ice time.

After the game Tortorella downplayed his own role in the win and deflected the credit to the club's collective effort.

"We didn't lose ourselves," he said. "There were times where we were forechecked pretty good, they pinched hard and got us bottled up, but we stayed within ourselves and found our game -- the way we play -- and found a way to win."

Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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