Without naming names - he didn't have to - Tortorella called out the Rangers' top players and said he needed more from them if they were going to win this series, one in which they lead 3-2 heading back to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS)
"Something has to give with our top guys and I'm not trying to insult them," Tortorella said. "I think we've got some good guys in the room, but this is a game where your best players have to be your best players and now we're in Game 6. It won't happen until our best players are our best players. Not kids, not kids."
Tortorella's concerns heading into Game 6 are two-fold: The Rangers are not scoring goals - they have only seven in the series and have been shut out twice, yet amazingly they still lead - because their power play has been anemic and they're taking too many penalties.
Even though he didn't want to discuss the benching of Sean Avery Friday night, it's fair to think that Tortorella was sending a message to No. 16 that his undisciplined play would not be tolerated. Avery has eight penalties, including seven minors, totaling 24 minutes in the series so far. He took two doozies in the final 9:39 of Game 4 that nearly cost the Rangers big time.
The message for better discipline, though, didn't get through as the Rangers committed 11 penalties totaling 38 minutes without Avery. The Capitals were 0-for-7 on the power play and are just 4-for-29 in the series because the Rangers penalty kill has been fantastic.
"We certainly got enough practice with it (Friday night), didn't we?" Tortorella asked rhetorically about the penalty kill. "That's what is keeping us above water with our power play struggling so much, our penalty kill doing the job."
He wishes that weren't the case.
"It's something we have to cure," Tortorella said of the discipline problem. "It's a series here and that's a very good hockey team. Let alone we're struggling little bit just to get offense going, we can't spend time in the penalty box."
The Rangers were called for three minor penalties in the first period, but it was the third period where things got ugly. Brandon Dubinsky was called for roughing and charging on separate occasions. Aaron Voros also got whistled for a roughing penalty.
And, with 5:46 to play in the game, Colton Orr and Voros were called for four penalties totaling 24 minutes. Orr got two-minute minors for holding and roughing along with a 10-minute misconduct. Voros got a 10-minute misconduct.
"We can't take retaliatory penalties," defenseman Marc Staal told NHL.com. "We have to control our emotions better and be smarter. For the playoffs they are calling it a lot tighter than they were near the end of the season and we have to realize that and fix it in a hurry."
They also have to find a way to fix their offense, which has gone cold since scoring four goals in Game 1. The Rangers still lead the series, but they have been outscored, 12-7, and outshot, 170-119, through five games. They won Game 2 by a 1-0 margin and Game 4 by a 2-1 score.
"We've got to find a way to get set up and get pucks to the net," center Scott Gomez said.
"We can't rely on (Henrik Lundqvist) to get a shutout every game," Staal added. "The start is key for us. We didn't really create that many chances (Friday) night, but maybe the D getting more aggressive, more active in the play, opening things up will help. Our power play has got to be better. It's got to produce at least a goal or two."
Tortorella, who said the Rangers need to get more control on their power play, used about every combination possible to get the power play going Friday night.
Everyone but Fredrik Sjostrom got at least one power play shift in Game 5. Voros, who played for Avery, got 3:03 of power play ice time. Voros played only 3:50 total (nothing on the power play) in Game 1, the only other game he's played in this series.
"Some of the guys have to understand that it's just not a given that they're going to be out there all the time (on the power play)," Tortorella said. "I think players get comfortable in those situations where they think they're going to go all the time.
"I see it a lot, your top players always think they're going to get the work there," he continued. "Your power play is a microcosm of your game because your top players are on that power play. That's a huge problem we have right now, both 5-on-5 and the power play. We simply have to get more and time is running out here for our top guys to get something accomplished."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org