NEW YORK – Five minutes and six seconds into their Sunday matinee against the Penguins, with the Rangers on a six-game losing streak and trailing 2-0, coach John Tortorella called a timeout. He had a decision to make. Either he could yell and scream at his underperforming team for allowing two quick goals to players with a total career output of five, or he could try to calm his unit down and remind them they had nearly 55 minutes of hockey still to play.
“It wasn’t a loud timeout, he wasn’t screaming at us, it was just calm your emotions and relax a little bit,” said Ryan Callahan, who scored two power play goals to give him four goals in his six games since returning from injury. “I think we got off to a pretty good start, our first shift we were in their end, we were coming hard. Unfortunately we got two quick ones on us there, two mistakes, two bounces. The timeout pretty much said relax, keep playing, we were fine, there were [nearly] three whole periods left to play.”
“We had a good power play before they scored their second goal,” added Brandon Dubinsky. “Torts just told us to calm down and reiterated the fact that we had 55 minutes of the game left, and we’d get the results we want to if we played the way we wanted to and we were capable of.”
The Rangers scored the next five goals of the game en route to a 5-3 win over bruised and battered Pittsburgh, snapping that six-game losing streak. Tortorella, who wears his emotion on his sleeve, used the correct tact.
“He has a good grasp on this team and what he needs to do to get us going,” said Dubinsky. “Sometimes it’s yelling, sometimes it’s just calming us down. Today he just calmed us down, and told us to play hard and keep going. It was a good thing for us.”
“It isn’t and it hasn’t been about kicking the hockey club,” Tortorella said. “We really haven’t, through this. We think we have played pretty well.”
“They knew we had a lot of time left in the hockey game,” added forward Vinny Prospal, whose second period goal gave the Rangers their first lead. “You look back at it, it was a great call. Basically, it broke down their momentum, and we scored right after the timeout.”
“They [the players] turned the game around. What I told them was, you could feel it — it was getting a little hinky in the building there,” Tortorella said. “It certainly wasn’t the greatest start we wanted – it was probably the worst thing we wanted.”
Thirty-seven seconds after the timeout, New York was on the board when Brian Boyle deflected Marc Staal’s point blast for his 19th goal, tied for the team lead with Dubinsky. Thirty minutes later, they had four more goals, and a 5-2 lead.
“I think that’s what you have to do as a coach,” Callahan said of Tortorella’s timeout. “He’s able to read the situation, read what’s going on, and I think it was important in the timeout to calm us down, relax a little bit, take a deep breath and just get back to playing. It settled us down.”
In not getting frustrated, the Rangers once again showed the tenacity they’ve played with all season.
“I thought the most important part of the game was our mental grit. That we didn’t get down, we didn’t get frustrated. We stayed within ourselves and kept trying to play,” Tortorella said. “We haven’t had any room for any mental mistake. I don’t think it’s gone through the whole game, or the whole period, it’s just a certain time and it ends up burying us.”
Not today, though. Today, the Rangers battled back after their coach made the most important play of all: Timeout, Rangers.
Deryk Engelland (three career goals) and Nick Johnson (two career goals) had tallies three minutes apart to give the Pens their early 2-0 lead.
Wojtek Wolski didn’t return after leaving the game in the second period. Tortorella said it was a rib injury, but didn’t know the severity.
The Rangers had three power play goals in six chances today, their most power play goals this season.