-- John Tortorella's fears became reality Monday night.
The New York Rangers
defense, which in Games 1 and 2 against the Washington Capitals
was holding like a dam that wouldn't break despite some obvious flooding, let all the water rush through in Game 3, leaving its goalie to drown.
The Capitals scored four goals and got 40 shots on net, many of them quality, for a 4-0 victory that cut the Rangers' lead in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal to 2-1. Washington scored only three goals on 70 shots combined in Games 1 and 2.
"I thought we stunk defensively," Tortorella said bluntly after Game 3. "They defended very well in front of their net and we were chasing our tails all night long, spinning and watching the puck. Against a team like that, the way they move the puck, you can't be watching."
Most of the Rangers echoed their coach's sentiments.
"They made a couple of good plays where we were looking at the puck too much," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist
, who was besieged for most of the night but still managed 36 saves. "They are good players and they will make good plays. You have to learn from it and be more aware the next game."
wasn't about to give the Caps too much credit, not after a game in which he felt the Rangers were too much at fault.
"I don't think it was so much them as much as it was us," Staal said. "We were standing around, watching a lot, circling and watching the puck being passed around us. We were kind of hesitant to play D-zone coverage well enough to keep them off the board."
The problem, as Tortorella most definitely sees it, is that even though the Rangers won both games in Washington, they came into Game 3 knowing that they needed to play with the puck more if they were going to hold off an offense as powerful as the Caps'.
Instead, the Caps were the aggressors in their defensive zone and the Rangers were passive in their own.
The results are telling, but now the Rangers have until Wednesday night to figure it out or face the prospect of going back to D.C. with the series locked up at 2-2.
"As I said, I think a very important part in trying to compete in this series is having the puck," Tortorella said. "You are not going to have the puck the way we played defense (Monday night). To create offense, you need to be sound defensively. We weren't even close.
"It was just a good old-fashioned spanking," he continued. "We need to take our medicine here, get back to work and try to figure things out."
It didn't help the Rangers that they were far too undisciplined for their coach's liking, too. They were whistled for nine penalties Monday totaling 26 minutes, including Sean Avery
's four minors plus a misconduct for 18 minutes.
The more time the Rangers are killing penalties -- the Caps had six power plays and scored on two of them -- the less time they have to try to get control of the puck.
"Guys are working hard, but at the same time Torts stressed that we have to stay out of the box and that is something we will work on," Rangers center Scott Gomez
said. "We will go over a lot of stuff (Tuesday) and we will make our adjustments."
"I thought we stunk defensively. They defended very well in front of their net and we were chasing our tails all night long, spinning and watching the puck. Against a team like that, the way they move the puck, you can't be watching." -- Rangers coach John Tortorella
That being said, Tortorella didn't even want to talk about the penalties.
"That really wasn't an indicator of how we played," the coach said. "I am not going to whine about penalties. We stunk -- simple."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org