John Tortorella sort of sensed this was coming. Now the Rangers coach has to hope that Monday's 7-3 loss to San Jose was his team bottoming out after teetering very close to the brink of disaster in their two previous games.
The Rangers won seven straight before getting thumped at home by the Sharks, but Tortorella wasn't fooled. Following Saturday's 4-1 win at Toronto, he expressed concern over the amount of penalties the Rangers were taking, their battle level and puck control.
His fears were realized Monday when the Rangers took seven penalties, including five in the offensive zone, lost many puck battles along the boards with their defenseman pinching up and struggled at times to control the puck.
They also took six penalties on Saturday and eight during their 4-2 win over Los Angeles last Wednesday when they were admittedly outplayed and fortunate to win.
"We have some things to work on," Tortorella said.
Tortorella, though, was relatively mild in his displeasure Monday despite the outcome.
He said he was happy with the Rangers start -- they jumped out to a 2-0 lead 8:34 into the game -- and didn't think the 5-2 deficit after the second period fully reflected how the Rangers were playing.
"I don't think there was a letdown," Tortorella said. "I think they made some plays and we didn't at certain points. They are a pretty good hockey club."
Even still, the penalties are what burned him the most.
took two in the offensive zone in the second period. Chris Higgins
, Marian Gaborik
and Vinny Prospal
also were called for penalties in the offensive zone. Wade Redden
and Donald Brashear
also spent time in the box.
"That's my biggest frustration," Tortorella said. "You talk about momentum swings … it just wrecks the flow of a game."
Tortorella, though, very much has the pulse of his team because the Rangers also bemoaned all of their infractions after Monday's loss, their first since a 3-2 season-opening defeat in Pittsburgh on Oct. 3.
"We have been talking about this for some time," Prospal said. "If you look at (the Sharks') personnel, this is a team that has a lot of skilled players that capitalize on power plays. That is what happened. It is something we have to learn from."
The Sharks scored on two of their first four power plays, but the Rangers didn't do a good enough job at even strength either as the Sharks scored five times during 5-on-5 play. They scored six unanswered goals to jump ahead 6-2 early in the third period.
"We took a couple of penalties, that killed the momentum and they scored," Brandon Dubinsky
said. "We just weren't able to get it back, and I think that's something we need to learn how to do."
The good news, as captain Chris Drury
pointed out, is it's only one game. The Rangers will have Tuesday off before returning to their practice ice Wednesday to prepare for Thursday's home game against New Jersey.
Tortorella stressed that the coaches will break down the video of Monday's game and the fallout could be a loss of ice time for some players.
"We have a few days to rebound," Drury said. "And we have a big divisional rivalry game on Thursday."
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