PHILADELPHIA - What a way to lose, that's all the Rangers could say after they were eliminated Sunday from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.
Entering the 82nd game of the season, in a points tie for eighth place with the team they had to beat in the final game of the season, the Rangers led 1-0 until the 6:54 mark of the third period. Overtime and then the shootout followed.
"It's devastating," defenseman Marc Staal said. "To play 82 games to get into the playoffs and have a chance of winning the Cup, have it come down to one game, it's hard."
Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked if this was the toughest loss in his career.
"Oh, I don’t know," he said. "It is a tough loss, the way the guys have fought hard here for the last little while, fought right to the bitter end. It comes down to a shootout and we do not get it done."
The Rangers used a hard forecheck and were quick to clear their zone on Flyers' offensive attacks through most of the game, but the Flyers had a decided edge in play late in the game.
"We did not have the puck enough, they had the puck," Tortorella said. "We knew they were going to come hard the first period. I thought we gathered ourselves through the second and third but simply throughout the game just did not have the puck enough."
"They played a pretty good hockey game tonight and they didn't give up too much," Staal agreed. "We were trying to get in there on them in the first two periods and they didn't give up too much. It's really a tough feeling right now."
The Rangers played with great confidence against the Flyers Friday night in the 4-3 victory that gave them a chance to secure a playoff spot Sunday, but they found themselves bottled up for much of Sunday's game. The line of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Carcillo was very effective against the Rangers' top line of Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen.
"They're big and physical," Christensen said. "I played with Chris Pronger last year in Anaheim and he's a big reason why Anaheim didn't make the playoffs, losing a guy like that. He's a force and really aggressive. They skate so well too. A smaller guy like (Kimmo) Timonen is always in position. If you don't want to chip it in, you're not going to beat them one-on-one. So, you try to criss-cross or do whatever but none of that seemed to be working."
"We knew it was going to be tough to come into this building," Rangers center Olli Jokinen said. "I think we played hard, everybody played hard. We had a 1-0 lead until the end, almost, and it came down to a shootout. I don't remember two teams battling for the (last) playoff spot (in a shootout) before. We had the same chance and they got a lucky one."
The Rangers were held without a shot for 13:05 minutes in the second period as the Flyers gained the edge of play for the rest of the game.
"We took penalties and it's hard to kill those off," Staal said. "They're at home and they gained momentum off that. We were kind of scrambling in our zone. That's the way it went in the second half."
Tortorella will be criticized for not using his leading scorer -- Gaborik has 42 goals -- but he used the players who have the highest shootout percentages, Christensen, Jokinen and P.A. Parenteau.
"I have a lot of experience in that," Christensen said. "My percentage is still pretty good. I'm the guy who knows what I'm going to do before I pick up the puck. I don't change or waver. My decision-making process is to skate in on the goalie and stick with what I want and he just came across on me."
"The guys we had are pretty good in the shootout," Redden said. "They've scored some big ones. It's pretty easy to look afterward and say you should have gone with this guy or that guy."
Tortorella declined to defend himself, though. Asked to talk about the decision, he said, "No."