“I thought we sucked tonight, right through the game. We were fortunate to get a point.”

“You know what? I don’t give a (bleep) what the guys talked about, I really don’t care what the guys talked about. We sucked.”

Those were the responses Rangers coach John Tortorella gave to the media before he stormed out of the post-game press conference last night after the Rangers threw away the dreaded three-goal lead in 20 minutes and change.

While one can understand Tortorella’s frustration at his team’s annoying inability to put teams away, he needed to man up and face the music just like his players did.

As a result of Torts’ abrupt exit, no one was able to ascertain the coach’s use of we. Was he referring to the “royal we” as in his team or was he referring to the collective we as in everyone on the bench – coach included?

In retrospect, he needed to be using we in reference to the team and himself – especially himself.

I normally do not blame coach’s for losses, but the Rangers 5-4 shootout loss in Atlanta is on his shoulders – and not for the reason you might be thinking.

I have no problem was his decision to start Steve Valiquette. Henrik Lundqvist had started 20 of the last 21 games and this was the last best chance to give The King a night off before the end of the season. Besides, despite much of the teeth gnashing from fans online, Valiquette has, for the most part, done a good job as Lundqvist’s backup.

So why is this loss on Tortorella?

For the second time in three games the Rangers failed to put away a non-playoff team. As Valiquette told Michael Obernauer of the Daily News, “Where is our killer instinct when we’re playing someone lower in the standings?”

Do it once, blame the players. Do it a second time in three games, blame the coach.

Of course, a lot of the blame (or credit depending on your rooting interest) goes to Ilya Kovalchuk. If Marian Gaborik was auditioning for the Rangers on Tuesday night, then the Thrashers captain did the same thing last night.

As Marc Staal and Daniel Girardi struggled with containing Kovalchuk, Tortorella did nothing. He did not try to switch another defense pairing against Kovalchuk’s line. Given the ice time and success Ilya was having, perhaps Tortorella should have gone old school.

Instead of matching defensive pairings against him, Tortorella should have just assigned a shadow to him – especially in the third period. Between Sean Avery, Lauri Korpikoski and Fredrik Sjostrom, Tortorella had enough left wingers to mark Kovalchuk for 20 minutes.

Even with that said, Tortorella continued to mystify me as to why Sean Avery played less than 15 minutes when he could have been effective in helping to turn the tide in the third period.

Things got even worse when the shootout rolled around. How Nikolai Zherdev is not be among your top six shooters is beyond me.

Perhaps the most damning thing of all reflects back to how Tortorella and the Rangers played with such discipline against Minnesota and then fell apart so quickly in the final 20:21 against Atlanta. Tortorella and the Blueshirts realized they needed to adjust their style of play against the Wild and take fewer chances in game they were going to have to grind out a victory.

Tortorella and the Rangers made no such adjustments against the Thrashers. Discipline, hard work and any semblance of a fore-check went out the window as the Rangers reverted to panic mode. If panic set in last night against the Thrashers, where does that leave the Rangers with their final seven games?

It is one thing to piss away a point against a team that is out of the playoff hunt. It is another to do it against a team you are battling with – and that is what the Rangers face as they hit the final stretch of the season. Outside of the Devils and Bruins, the Rangers play five games against teams they are battling for a spot in the playoffs. The Rangers can ill afford to leave any points behind. They need to make sure they put their two points away like they should have last night against Atlanta and if there are any games that they are “destined to lose”, they need to get those games into overtime (at the least) to make sure they gain a point out of game where they were not meant to get a point.

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