GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- After a short practice at the Rangers' training facility on Friday afternoon, coach John Tortorella took a few moments to acknowledge his team's effort in an overtime win in Game 4 on Thursday night.
Skating in the middle of his players during the team stretch, Tortorella praised them in the only way he seems to know how.
“Great f-----g job last night,” he told them, twirling around so everyone could hear. “Great f-----g job last night.”
Tortorella is not the warm-and-fuzzy type -- that much was clear when his passionate defense of scratched veteran Brad Richards on Thursday ended with a “kiss my a--” comment. But his profanity-laced tirade was filled with pride.
And Tortorella has reason to feel proud after his team fought back despite facing a 3-0 series deficit. The season-saving win improved the Rangers' record in elimination games to 6-1 over the past two seasons. They've won all three they've faced this year.
What’s the explanation?
“There’s no give in this team,” Tortorella said.
Outplayed by the Bruins in the first three games of this series, the specter of a sweep loomed large. As is often the case in such scenarios, speculation intensified about the team, its coach and the organization’s future.
The Rangers could have shrugged their shoulders after falling behind 2-0 in the second period Thursday. They could have thrown up their hands in exasperation at battling a Bruins team that is deeper, more balanced and, through much of the series, just plain better.
But the Rangers rallied with just one thought in mind: send the series back to Boston.
“I think it’s just the sense of desperation, and it shows the character we have in this room,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “And it shows the willingness we have to go out and work and battle and not give in.”
Tortorella went out on a limb in Game 4 by scratching Richards, a well-respected veteran and beloved teammate. It was a surprising move, but a necessary one. If he lost any respect within the locker room by making that difficult decision, it didn’t show.
He will likely stick with the same lineup again on Saturday for Game 5.
Richards, whom Tortorella called a “hell of a hockey player having a hell of a time," did not practice Friday. He skated with the extras and his fellow scratches from Thursday night in an earlier session Friday morning.
With the energy and jam provided by a newly configured fourth line of Kris Newbury, Micheal Haley and Derek Dorsett, the Rangers will enter enemy territory this weekend determined to show the same resolve that saved them in Game 4.
“In the back of your head, you know there’s no turning back, there’s no option,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been the team’s best player in the postseason. “You have to leave everything out there.”
“You try not to change the way you think about the game,” Lundqvist continued, “but of course you know that if you don’t do well now, it’s over.”