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Tortorella was seeking best mix of players in Game 2

by Dave Lozo

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't solely blame Marian Gaborik for the team's 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday, but he was willing to speak in generalities during a conference call Thursday about the team's third straight loss while leading a series 1-0.

"I'm not going to get into individual players," Tortorella said. "I think as you go into the playoffs and you go into these momentum swings of winning a game and losing a game, it's not one individual guy. Certainly [Game 2], it wasn't one individual guy that we end up on the wrong side of that. There are a number of things we need to be better at as a team."

The Rangers were leading 2-1 late in the second period when Ryan Carter deflected a shot past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to even the score. Gaborik had an opportunity to get the puck out of the zone seconds before the goal, and his failure to do so preceded a lengthy benching during the third period with the Rangers searching for the tying goal.


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Tortorella wouldn't discuss Gaborik's ice time specifically, but instead spoke in generalities about his thought process in Game 2.

"I think all coaches do it," Tortorella said. "I think you're trying to put players in situations that are going to try to help you to win games or help you in certain situations or momentum swings. And conversely, some guys, when you just don't think it's working, they don't see the ice or they don't get the minutes. So those are decisions that we make every game. You guys like calling them benchings and all of that stuff, and as coaches we're trying to find a way to win a hockey game and we make decisions accordingly."

As Tortorella said, Gaborik wasn't the sole reason for the Rangers once again finding themselves deadlocked after two games of a playoff series.

The Rangers appeared overwhelmed at times by the Devils' aggressive forecheck and had a hard time breaking out of their zone. When the Devils were able to get the puck behind the Rangers' goal line, they controlled the play territorially for long stretches.

For Tortorella, the Rangers need to be better in terms of executing the game plan and having a stronger will against the Devils on Saturday in Game 3.

"At least this team here feels we like the way our team concept is," Tortorella said. "We have a way we like to play. I think in situations it's different. If you're asking about Saturday's situation, I think it's both. I think there are some corrections in our game we have to make, but I also think at this time of year -- I know everybody likes talking about adjustments -- but it simply comes down to a little bit of will and a mindset, and going into Saturday's game, I think we fall in both categories."

Offense has been a problem throughout the postseason for the Rangers, but their average of 2.12 goals per game hasn't hurt thanks to the stellar play of Lundqvist and the defense. But while Gaborik is receiving his share of criticism after Game 2, he is tied for fifth in scoring among players remaining in the playoffs with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 16 games.

Some of his teammates, however, haven't matched their regular-season totals during the playoffs.

Captain Ryan Callahan was second in goals with 29 and third in points with 54 in 76 regular-season games; in the postseason, he has just 3 goals and 3 assists in 16 games. He has just one goal at even strength, and one assist in his last six games.

"I think as you go into the playoffs and you go into these momentum swings of winning a game and losing a game, it's not one individual guy."
-- Rangers' coach John Tortorella

Forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who was a healthy scratch during the regular season because of his poor offensive output, has zero goals in 16 games. Top-line left wing Carl Hagelin has zero goals and three assists in 13 games.

"I think when you're involved in the playoffs and the further you go in it, I think you're looking for big plays at key times," Tortorella said. "We have found our way. I think one of the most important ingredients for us to be consistent and to be able to play at this time of year really is to play as a team and not have any one specific guy be the guy. Having said that, you certainly want big plays at key times, and I think that's what determines a lot of the winning and the losing -- who made that big play.

"And it's not about only an offensive play. It could be a defensive play. It's not just one person we're looking to get hot. We're looking for the group of them to continue to play under our team concept, but also someone step up each and every period or each and every game or key time to make a big play, and I think that's how you find your way."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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