NEW YORK – John Tortorella took back-to-back doses of what got former New York Rangers coach Tom Renney fired.
A painful and frustrating lack of offence has left the Rangers with little room for error over the past two months. Tortorella’s home opener as the Rangers’ new coach Thursday night looked similar to his first game a day earlier as New York failed to hold a one-goal lead in the third period of a 2-1 loss.
The latest version against the Florida Panthers was worse than the previous because the defeat came in regulation and left the Rangers pointless despite a 41-22 shots advantage.
David Booth and Nathan Horton scored on consecutive shots a minute apart in the third period to rally the Panthers.
“We can’t cut the line so fine here in being 1-0 again,” said Tortorella, sounding like Renney. “We have to try to get that second goal so that type of situation doesn’t hurt you.”
The Rangers also led 1-0 after two periods Wednesday in Toronto before falling in a shootout. New York has scored fewer than three goals in 14 straight losses.
Tortorella, who served a four-game winless interim stint as Rangers coach at the end of the 1999-2000 season, replaced the fired Renney on Monday.
After saying some players seemed to tire in the third period at Toronto due to a lack of conditioning, Tortorella had no issue with his team’s stamina or effort one night later.
New York just can’t break out of the slide in which it has dropped 12 of 14 (2-8-4), a skid that cost Renney his job.
“I’m not upset with them … we just are struggling to score a goal,” Tortorella said. “I’m looking forward to keep growing with the team, because I think they have picked up how we want to play very well.
“We just can’t finish.”
Florida and the Rangers are tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points. They’re one point ahead of Buffalo and Carolina.
“The Rangers played a great hockey game,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re fortunate to get out of here with two points, but we’ll take it.
“We’re all in such a close battle. That’s a four-point game and everybody on both sides knows it.”
The Panthers bounced back from a 6-1 loss at Boston on Tuesday at the start of a five-game trip that still has stops at powerhouses New Jersey and Washington to come.
Craig Anderson, subbing for Tomas Vokoun (ear infection), was sharp in making 40 saves.
He stopped defenceman Paul Mara at the right post in the third as New York pushed for a 2-0 lead and earned his first win since Dec. 11 – a 10-game span.
Anderson also withstood the Rangers’ 5-on-3 power play that lasted 49 seconds in the third.
“It’s a huge momentum boost for us,” Anderson said. “We had the wind taken out of our sails the other night. It was good for us to get back on track and find a way to win.”
Henrik Lundqvist was victimized by Booth’s backhander from the right circle that beat him between the pads with 8:10 left. Horton struck at 12:50 after Richard Zednik found him in front with a pass.
“We know we can come from behind and win,” Horton said. “We’re not out until the buzzer sounds. That’s the way we kind of played.”
Markus Naslund had the Rangers’ lone goal, connecting 7:34 into the game.
New York nearly jumped in front just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff when Mara, making a surprisingly early return to the lineup following a shoulder injury, fired a puck from the right point.
Brandon Dubinsky tipped the shot past Anderson, with his stick appearing to be below the crossbar, but referee Bill McCreary said the goal was disallowed by the league office in Toronto.
The Rangers grabbed the lead at 7:34 with a goal that stood up to video review.
Scott Gomez raced down the middle of the Florida zone and got off a shot. Anderson made the save, but Naslund knocked the rebound with his stick off his driving left skate and into the net.
New York recorded 30 shots to Florida’s 16 in the first two periods, but again had one goal to show for it in the new uptempo, pressing attack employed by Tortorella.
“Certainly playing with a cushion and getting that second goal changes the dynamic of both of these games,” captain Chris Drury said. “We weren’t able to get it, so it is not good.”
Notes: McCreary left the game 50 seconds into the third period and appeared to injure his right leg. Eric Furlatt was the lone referee the rest of the game. Panthers LW Cory Stillman injured an ankle Thursday morning and didn’t play. LW Nick Tarnasky took his place. … Mara, who missed five games after hurting his right shoulder while throwing a punch, replaced D Erik Reitz.