New York Rangers coach John Tortorella benched defenceman Wade Redden and forward Ales Kotalik for the rematch Thursday night against the New York Islanders after his club dropped its fifth straight a night earlier.
The Rangers started the home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday with a first period in which they fell behind 1-0 and were outshot 10-3. They barely avoided a shutout by scoring in the final minute. The 2-1 loss dropped the Rangers to 0-3-2 in their last five and 1-6-2 in the past nine.
“The guys that are out has to do with their play,” Tortorella said. “It’s never over one game, but it has to do with their play.”
The Rangers didn’t come out any better Thursday in the shot department, but they grabbed a 1-0 in the first period despite being outshot 12-2 at the time of Ryan Callahan’s goal at 13:06. Their lead doubled with 2:04 left in the frame when captain Chris Drury scored on the Rangers’ fourth shot – compared to 14 by the Islanders. Drury had been dropped down to the fourth line to start the game.
Henrik Lundqvist was sharp early as the Islanders fired away, recording four shots on a power play.
New York was held to two goals or fewer Wednesday for the seventh straight game and for the 17th time in 21 contests. The Rangers have 15 goals in their last nine games.
“There has to be something done, and we’ll see along the way before (Thursday) night’s game,” Tortorella said Wednesday during his expletive-laced postgame comments. We’ll see where we go with them.
“It’s just simply unacceptable how we started that game. I wish I could give you an explanation about it. I can’t.”
Erik Christensen, recently claimed off waivers from Anaheim, played his fifth game with the Rangers in place of Kotalik. Rookie Bobby Sanguinetti got into his fourth career NHL game, taking Redden’s spot.
Redden, in the second season of a six-year deal with the Rangers, responded angrily to being scratched and got into an argument with Tortorella before the morning skate Thursday.
“I’m not going to go into details about what was said,” Redden said. “Obviously, I wasn’t happy coming in and seeing my name on the scratch list. He wants to shake things up, and obviously I’m an example here.”
Kotalik, in his ninth NHL season and first with the Rangers, also was miffed to be sitting out. He fumbled the puck at the blue line during a power play Wednesday that led to a breakaway by Islanders forward Frans Nielsen.
It was the first time this season that Redden and Kotalik missed a game while healthy.
“It’s always surprising when you are not a guy just starting in this league,” Kotalik said. “It’s frustrating.”