Call it the Tortorella Tirade.
The Rangers came out flat in the opening minute against the New Jersey Devils, and coach John Tortorella had seen more than enough. He burned his lone timeout 1:24 in and chewed out his club. The message got through, and New York fought to a 3-2 victory on Monday night.
“We didn’t come out ready,” captain Chris Drury said. “It was pretty obvious at the start of the game and he let us know. From that point on I thought we responded very well.”
“You’re not always going to get away with bad starts like that.”
Rookie defencemen Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy both scored, and the Rangers uncharacteristically rode their power play to a win.
After a season-opening loss at Pittsburgh, the Rangers have won two straight. Del Zotto and Ales Kotalik scored power-play goals in the first period, and Gilroy scored at even strength in the second for New York, which erased two one-goal deficits. Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves.
The 19-year-old Del Zotto has scored in consecutive games and has three points.
Rob Niedermayer scored his first goal with the Devils, and Travis Zajac added a power-play score in the first for the Devils (0-2), who have lost twice at home under returning coach Jacques Lemaire.
David Clarkson assisted on both goals, and Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots.
“Definitely not the way you want to start,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “There are some growing mistakes as far as questionable decisions at tough times. You will have those when you have a whole new lineup, and we’re going to have to get through that quickly.”
Gilroy, last season’s Hobey Baker Award winner as the top NCAA player, took a pass in the right circle and smacked a shot that beat Brodeur between the pads with 2:10 left in the second. Gilroy’s first NHL point gave the Rangers their only lead.
“I don’t know how I was that open,” Gilroy said. “I think everyone was focused in on the forwards and I just came in the back side.”
The Devils had several scoring chances and took advantage 1:10 in when Niedermayer scored from the right circle off a pass from Jay Pandolfo.
When Dainius Zubrus crashed into Lundqvist 14 seconds later, Tortorella called timeout. With his players hanging over the bench, Tortorella yelled and punctuated his points by punching his open palm.
“Anything you guys can think of, he probably said it,” Gilroy said.
Tortorella grew tired of his players staring at the Devils.
“I was just shocked as far as how we were playing in our own end zone, watching people play,” Tortorella said. “You have to give them credit for finding themselves and grinding one out.”
After failing on their first nine power-play chances in two games, New York snapped out of its funk with Del Zotto’s goal. Del Zotto streaked in from the point and shot the puck into the left side – vacated by Brodeur, who saved a shot from the right – at 6:31.
The Devils ended their power-play drought when Zajac scored off a feed from Clarkson at 10:52. New Jersey went 0-for-5 and the advantage in its 5-2 season-opening loss to Philadelphia, including a 5-on-3 chance for a full two minutes.
The Devils failed on their other five power-play opportunities Monday, including a brief two-man advantage early in the third.
New York tied it 2-2 after receiving a fortunate power play. Drury levelled Martin with a dangerous hit with his knee – sending both players to the ice. Drury was then jumped by Johnny Oduya, who delivered several punches.
“(Martin) is so shifty, he moved out of the way and I just caught a bad part of him,” Drury said. “I’m glad he is OK. I am certainly not trying to go knee-on-knee with anybody.”
Drury received a minor penalty for kneeing, but Oduya got 4 minutes for roughing. After the ensuing faceoff, Del Zotto sent a pass to Kotalik for a drive from the left point that beat Brodeur with 3:37 left in the second.
“It’s not a good thing when they score a goal. I thought maybe I would get two (minutes),” Oduya said. “I didn’t think that much. Come across, get a hit like that low on your knee. I know how it feels.”
Drury said he had no problem with Oduya’s reaction.
“That is a teammate of his and he probably saw it differently,” Drury said. “If that was our guy, I would expect the same.”
NOTES: Devils RW Ilkka Pikkarainen made his NHL debut after being activated from the injured list (flu). … The Rangers had the NHL’s second-worst power-play unit last season. … Lemaire faced Rangers forward Marian Gaborik for the first time. They spent the past eight seasons with the Minnesota Wild. … The Rangers were 2-for-6 on the power play.