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Rangers lose to Toronto in Tortorella's debut

by John Kreiser
New coach, same Rangers.

John Tortorella's first game behind the New York Rangers' bench looked a lot like Tom Renney's last one -- not enough offense, a painful loss and one point instead of two.

The Rangers' offensive struggles continued in their first game under their new coach, with only defenseman Wade Redden able to beat Vesa Toskala through 65 minutes. Redden's power-play goal 10:26 into the second period put the Rangers ahead, but Niklas Hagman tied it with 9:39 left in regulation and Nikolai Kulemin had the lone goal in the shootout to give the Leafs a 2-1 win at Air Canada Centre.

"I thought we had some good movement," Tortorella said of the Rangers' struggling power play, which scored once in four chances. "It was good to get Redd scoring a goal. Maybe that will help him relieve some of the pressure."

Kulemin ripped a short wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist on the first attempt on the shootout. Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala, who had stopped only 10 of 23 previous shootout attempts, turned aside all three shots he faced for the win.

"I was really happy that Toskala was able to make the saves," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "They didn’t miss the net -- he made the saves. That's good for him."

It wasn't so good for Tortorella, who got the job Monday after Renney was fired, one day after the Leafs' 3-2 overtime win in New York.

"I just think we lack confidence when it comes to scoring a goal," Tortorella said. "I look at us on a 3-on-2, a drop pass to Chris Drury hops over his stick. We have a couple pucks in the crease, we fan on one with an open net. It's just the way it's going right now."

The loss extended the Rangers' losing streak away from Madison Square Garden to nine games (0-7-2), their longest drought since 2000-01. They also failed to break three goals in a game for the 17th consecutive time on the road, their longest such drought in 55 years.

"They couldn't find any rhythm," Wilson said. "We were fortunate to play a little bit of a nervous team tonight. They couldn't finish. That's been their problem all year."

The Rangers did look more passionate under Tortorella than they had on most nights under Renney. They outshot Toronto 32-24 -- though in the end, the lack of offense cost them again.



"I liked some things," said Tortorella, who had only one practice with his new team before the trip to Toronto. "I think they grasped how we want to pressure. I thought we had some good energy. I thought we did some good things defensively. But I just think we lack confidence when it comes right down to trying to score a goal.

"I thought we had some good chances to score. We just couldn't finish."

The only Ranger who could Redden, who's been a disappointment since signing a big free-agent contract last summer. He gave the Rangers the lead when his power-play blast from the left point sailed past a screened Toskala for his first goal in 58 games since Oct. 10 Hagman tied it when he made a quick move coming out of the corner and beat Lundqvist to the glove side.

In the end, the Rangers lost for the 11th time in 13 games. They face a key game against Florida at home on Thursday.

"I think most nights we are going to get more than one goal playing this way," forward Markus Naslund said. "I think we are going to be in good shape if we keep playing like this."

Penguins 1, Islanders 0 | Video

The last time the Islanders came to Mellon Arena, the Penguins rolled up nine goals. This time, with no Sidney Crosby in the lineup, they managed just one -- but it was enough.

Petr Sykora's goal with 2:28 left in regulation broke up a goaltending battle and gave the Penguins a huge two points as they scramble for a playoff berth. Sergei Gonchar's pass through the slot pinballed to Sykora, who was alone to the left of the crease and slammed the puck into a half-empty net.

Pittsburgh is still 10th in the East with 66 points, two out of a playoff spot, after a night of redemption for Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled in Sunday's 5-2 loss to Washington but stopped all 21 Islander shots for his third shutout of the season. He got a break in the second period when Isles defenseman Radek Martinek's shot plinked off the post and the crossbar but stayed out of the net.

"I think we've been struggling against teams that are lower in the standings and it's good to get two points and everybody is happy," Fleury said.

Actually, not everyone -- especially new Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who has been trying to get his team to push the tempo but had to settle for a nail-biting win at home against the NHL's worst team.

"I don't think it was a terribly exciting game," Bylsma said. "There weren't a lot of pucks to the net until the third period. But that's the kind of recipe you play and win hockey games with -- you get into the offensive zone, stay there and grind it down and set yourself up for the third period."

Isles goaltender Yann Danis, who shut out New Jersey on Saturday, saw his shutout streak end at 150:06 when Sykora scored. Coach Scott Gordon said his goaltender wasn't to blame on the play.

"(Ruslan) Fedotenko ran into (Brendan) Witt, who fell on top of Yann," Gordon said. "It resulted in a bit of a fluke bounce to go right into the net."

The Islanders, last in the overall standings, have been decent at home but awful on the road. They've been held to six goals while losing their last six games away from the Nassau Coliseum and are 1-19-1 on the road since Nov. 22.

For 40-plus minutes, the Penguins looked nothing like the team that demolished the Isles 9-2 on Dec. 11. They felt the absence of Crosby, who injured his groin on Sunday and left practice on Tuesday. The Penguins hope he'll be ready Friday night when they open a five-game trip with a visit to Chicago.

"As frustrating as it was not getting a goal the first two periods and the first 55 minutes or whatever it was, I thought we stayed pretty composed and kept plugging away," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Then we found one there in the end. Their goalie played great all night."

Flyers 2, Kings 0 | Video

Martin Biron will get his name on the milestone wall at the Wachovia Center after recording his 25th career shutout. Whether he'll be the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender remains to be seen -- but performances like the one he had against the visiting Kings sure won't hurt.

Biron stopped 34 shots for his second shutout of the season and was the Flyers' best player as they moved within four points of Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey. Jeff Carter scored a power-play goal at 16:11 of the second period and Biron made it stand up until Simon Gagne hit the empty net with 1 second left.

"I've had some close ones," Biron said of his shutouts. "We have a big wall in our hallway here reminding us of all the milestones. I know they'll be putting my name on the wall, which is going to be nice."

Coach John Stevens has been giving both Biron and Antero Niittymaki roughly equal amounts of playing time -- and both have been playing well recently. Niittymaki was the best Flyer on Tuesday night, when he stopped 35 shots in a 4-2 win at Washington.

"I don't really know too many teams that get in the playoffs with only one guy pulling the load," Biron said after the Flyers' seventh win in nine games. "We both want to play every night, we both want to get in there and lead the team. Some nights, you're going to have to be supportive."

Stevens isn't saying whether he'll decide on a No. 1 netminder or keep mixing and matching.

"We've got confidence in both these guys right now, and I think we're going to use them both from now to the end of the year," Stevens said. "I think they're both going to deserve a chance to get back in the net."

Carter broke the scoreless tie when Joffrey Lupul's shot appeared to bounce off goaltender Erik Ersberg's shoulder to him. He put the puck through a tangle of lets and into the net for his 36th goal of the season, second in the NHL to Alex Ovechkin.

The goal held up for the Flyers, who beat their former coach, Terry Murray. Murray led the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup finals, and spent the past four seasons with them as an assistant coach.

The loss left the Kings with 61 points, four out of a playoff spot in the West. "We had our looks, we had our opportunities but Marty was really good here," Murray said. "It was a demanding game, and I was proud of our guys because we're such a young team. We have to find a way."


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