TAMPA, Fla. – John Tortorella tried to put his first game against his former team behind him in a hurry Friday night.
“We were simply outplayed tonight, from the top line to the goaltender,” the intense coach said after his New York Rangers’ 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’m not going to dissect the game tonight because we were outplayed and the best thing about tonight is we play tomorrow and we can push this one right out (of our minds). We stunk tonight! It was an embarrassing loss! Let’s leave it at that.”
Tortorella, fired by Tampa Bay following the 2007-08 season, spent seven seasons with the Lightning, leading them to the 2004 Stanley Cup title.
Kurtis Foster had two goals, Steven Stamkos added his team-high 16th, and Marty St. Louis had three assists. Steve Downie and Paul Szczechura also scored, and Mike Smith made 26 saves, allowing only Ryan Callahan’s late third-period goal.
“Smitty’s played well for us,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s really squaring the puck, and when he’s quiet, he’s really hard to get around.”
Stamkos scored six minutes into the game, beating Henrik Lundqvist with a wrist shot off a pass from St. Louis. Rookie defenceman Victor Hedman also assisted on the goal.
“We played our best 60 minutes as a team in a long time,” St. Louis said. “I think everybody backed each other whenever it got physical and we played together as a whole in every facet.”
The Lightning added two power-play goals against a Rangers team that has the top-ranked penalty-killing unit in the NHL.
Foster scored on a slapshot in the first period, and Downie added his third goal of the season eight minutes into the second.
“We’ve wanted to keep Foster in the line up,” Tocchet said. “He had a couple of goals, but he made some defensive plays down in the zone, too.”
Foster, who has just three goals this season, didn’t think the team’s play had anything to do with Tortorella’s presence, but the team stepped up after a poor performance against Toronto on Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t much of Tortorella being in the building, but there were a lot of us not happy with the game against Toronto,” Foster said. “We wanted to bring out ‘A’ game tonight so we’d get the win.”
Szczechura scored his first goal on the season on a second-chance shot, after picking up the rebound from James Wright’s initial shot. Lundqvist gave up four goals on 22 shots before giving way to Steve Valiquette with seven minutes left in the second.
“This is very frustrating,” Rangers left-winger Sean Avery said. “A game like this frustrates us a lot.”
Rangers defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti said the team had a hard time slowing down the Lightning’s offence, adding the players had extra energy throughout the game.
“They came out hard from the start,” Sanguinetti said. “I think they just wanted it more tonight.”
NOTES: Lightning D Matt Smaby was optioned to Norfolk for a conditioning assignment. … Lightning D Mattias Ohlund missed his second straight game because of a lower-body injury … Rangers D Wade Redden was scratched Friday with a shoulder injury.