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Playoffs 2013Rangers' Tortorella defends decision to bench Richards

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 | 12:48 AM

Categories: BOS vs NYR, Boston Bruins, Hockey Night in Canada, New York Rangers, Playoffs 2013

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New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella shouts at a linesman (not pictured) during a timeout against the Boston Bruins in Game 4 in New York on Thursday. (Mike Segar/Reuters) New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella shouts at a linesman (not pictured) during a timeout against the Boston Bruins in Game 4 in New York on Thursday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

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New York Rangers coach John Tortorella decided to leave star forward Brad Richards out of the lineup for Game 4, and his squad responded with a 4-3 OT win to stave off elimination against the Bruins. The coach defended his player, and his decision after the game.
By Jay Greenberg, special to CBC Sports

NEW YORK -   It was over, until it wasn't.  

At the start, the Rangers had nothing, and early in the second period, they had even less than that. 

Nathan Horton and Torey Krug banged in power-play goals just 3:02 apart that left John Tortorella's team 33 minutes from summer and seemingly light years from being able to match up with the Bruins.

Then Boston goalie Tuukka Rask took a tumble, even before defenceman Johnny Boychuk slowed down Carl Hagelin's shot. The puck trickled by the helpless goalie like the start of a slow drip that would get the Rangers back to Boston Saturday alive, if still not exactly  well.

"We're still breathing," said Tortorella, after the Rangers finally got both a power-play goal by Brian Boyle - and an overtime goal from Chris Kreider - to come back and win 4-3 in Game 4. "I just don't think our battle level is where it needs to be against a second-round team. 

"We still have to get better at that."

We'll see if the Rangers can, against a deeper Bruins team that still has three kicks at the can, after it is done taking a few swings of the leg at their own backsides, we mean. Neither Rask -- nonchalant on a behind-the-net setup for defenceman Zdeno Chara -- nor blue-liner Dougie Hamilton, with a full view of Derek Stepan on Chara's tail, let him know that the Rangers centre was there. 

New York's best player on this night lifted the Norris Trophy winner's stick for a wrap-around while the Bruins goalie was taking his time getting back to the crease.

"He didn't know [Stepan] was there," said Hamilton. "I guess we could have let him know."

Law of averages

When Tyler Seguin put his own rebound past Lundqvist after a pretty give- and-go with Hamilton, the Bruins, back up 3-2, had one more chance to restore order. But Shawn Thornton signaled for a line change then didn't come off, and the Bruins were called for too many men, giving the Rangers' 2-for-40 power play a chance.  

The law of averages finally took over when Boyle took a pass in the slot from Derek Stepan after Gregory Campbell didn't turn around to take a look for the trailer. The letter of that law was re-enforced when the Rangers won in overtime for the first time in four tries this post-season. 

Rick Nash pulled up on a 2-on-2 and sent a precise pass to Kreider, who had position on Hamilton for a perfect re-direct.  

"I had him coming through, knew exactly where he was going to be and couldn't get his stick," said Hamilton. "That's a play I have to have.

"I feel like I let the team down."

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He had a lot of help by other Bruins letting themselves down. The winning play started on a two-easy breakout after forward David Krejci lost a draw to Stepan in the New York end. The Bruins' acclaimed fourth line that won Game 3 with two third-period goals, was on the ice for the third-period tying goal in Game 4.

And Hamilton, one of three kids who have excelled during the Bruins' injury crisis on defence, didn't open his mouth on the second goal or close down the pass on the fourth one.  

Likely, we now will see veteran Dennis Seidenberg back in the lineup Saturday -- if not for Hamilton, then for someone else. The Bruins are the better team and if they resolve to be the smarter one, they will finish this off without having to hear much more about 2010, when they led the Flyers late in Game 4, lost in overtime and started down the dark path to becoming only the third NHL team in history to lose a series they led 3-0.

"There is no panic here," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "Had we been outworked and not been there at all, we would be talking differently here. 

"But we didn't get outworked. All it was that we didn't execute as well as we have been. The thing that we did [in other games] extremely well wasn't that easy [tonight]."

Hard to give the Rangers too much credit for making it harder for Boston. But some of them came up big.

Defending Richards decision

Lundqvist held New York in check, particularly in the first period and overtime. 

Stepan made a fabulous swipe from Chara. Tortorella moved Kreider, a talented scorer -- if an air-headed defender -- up with some people who could put the kid's speed and hands to use.

And by not dressing the struggling Brad Richards, the coach also created a fourth line that had a little fight, even if Kris Newbury, Richards's replacement, took a goaltender interference penalty that the Bruins cashed in on for their first goal.

"I am looking to get some sort of identity on that [fourth] line, and that's where Brad comes out," said Tortorella. "We get some fresh legs and some enthusiasm.  

"I want to make sure you know that Brad Richards is a hell of a hockey player. He has had struggles here. It continues. Me playing him that way does not help him. So I would rather have him out and identify how we are going to run our fourth line.  

"Don't put words in my mouth. I am not blaming Brad Richards. I have already heard enough of that crap already. This is a Conn Smyth winner, a guy I have grown up with, a guy that I love as a person and a player. Kiss my [butt] if you want to write something different."

Well, we would argue about the new fourth line -- with Newbury, Micheal Haley and Derek Dorsett making that much difference. Newbury took that penalty and Dorsett repeatedly failed in his attempts to take better players off the ice with him.

But Stepan certainly stepped up while the Bruins stepped in their own mess, so there will be a Game 5.

Follow Jay Greenberg on Twitter @ScribeJG

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