- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2009

NEW YORK | Suspended New York Rangers coach John Tortorella did not address his team before leaving the locker room two hours before Sunday’s Game 6 against the Washington Capitals.

Leading into the series’ deciding game Tuesday, he should have plenty to say to them.

Tortorella was forced to watch from a suite at Madison Square Garden after being banned by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for throwing a water bottle into the stands at Verizon Center during Friday’s loss to the Capitals.

The Rangers lost 5-3 on Sunday and have squandered two chances to finish off the Caps.

“We really had some huge individual breakdowns,” acting coach Jim Schoenfeld said. “We had guys that are locked in and ready to go, and we had guys who wanted to test the water. … We know what we have to do. The goal is now execution. We need our players, to a man, to play the game of the season.”

Tortorella will be back behind the bench Tuesday. He did not speak to reporters after the game. The Rangers have asked the league for additional security behind their bench.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather sent a letter to Bettman requesting “appropriate discipline in light of Washington’s gross negligence in ensuring the safety of the personnel on the Rangers’ bench… in the face of the Rangers’ repeated requests for intervention against egregious fan misconduct during Game 5. … Washington utterly failed in its security obligations to the Rangers, not to mention its own fans.”

Sather listed several examples of what the Rangers deemed unacceptable behavior, including one fan yelling about the sexual orientation of defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.

In a statement, the NHL said: “We will follow up on the Rangers’ request, as appropriate. We had already implemented additional security procedures for Games 6 and 7, and we don’t anticipate any further problems.”

Schoenfeld said Tortorella’s outburst was caused by fans getting on his players.

“It wasn’t any sling they threw at him, and there were many,” Schoenfeld said before the game. “There’s a certain part of your being when you’re a coach, and it’s like being a parent. There are certain things you’ll put up with, and there’s a certain line you can cross. That’s what happened with John. You can say what you want to Torts - call him whatever you want. But don’t get down on the people he cares about. He will fight for them, and that’s what he did.”

With Tortorella unable to communicate with the bench, the Rangers played their worst game of the series.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after two periods for the second straight game.

In the first four games of the series, he stopped 141 of 149 shots; the last two games, he has allowed nine goals on 34 shots.

“We have to give Hank more support,” defenseman Paul Mara said. “He’s played incredible for us, but we have to stand up and play for him.”

Lundqvist gave up a soft goal to Milan Jurcina for the first goal, but the Rangers broke their streak of 18 scoreless power plays to tie the game 66 seconds later on Scott Gomez’s goal. The Caps scored the next four.

“It seems like every mistake we’ve made, they’ve capitalized on,” Gomez said.

Before the game, Schoenfeld said Tortorella’s intensity was the reason New York even made the playoffs. They will need a big-time motivational speech between now and Tuesday night.

“This team was dead in the water before he arrived,” Schoenfeld said. “This team was looking for direction at that point in time, and he came and gave them direction.”


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