No Shortage of Misery at Garden on Tuesday

Rangers find new depths of ugly in loss to Canadiens

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013  |  Updated 8:15 AM EDT
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There were goals, but few reasons to celebrate on Tuesday night.

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There are times when you need a thousand words to even begin to explain a game or performance. 

And there are times when you only need 24 of them. John Tortorella provided the 24 we needed after the Rangers fell 3-1 to the Canadiens in a game that scarred the eyes and souls of all who saw it. 

"I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve been involved in, both teams," Tortorella said in his post-game press conference. “But they were better than we were."

Can't argue with anything there. The Canadiens play a neutral zone clogging style heavy on icing infractions that's hideous to watch, but that doesn't excuse the Rangers from not being able to find a way to force Montreal to open up. 

The Rangers were content to skate into the teeth of the defense, hand the puck over and then do it all over again a few moments later. It was a lifeless, cynical affair that should shame just about everyone involved. 

Former Ranger Brandon Prust was one of the few to show enough spirit and energy to receive an exemption from the loathing heaped upon the rest of the participants in the game. It was fitting, since this year's Rangers team misses Prust a lot more than they should given the fact that players who make their living with energy and fisticuffs aren't supposed to be that hard to find. 

The Rangers suffer from deficits in grit and urgency far too often, something that wasn't the case last year and something that has made it seem like the first 15 games of the season have been played in a fog. At 8-6-1, there's no reason to panic about the team but there's also no reason to think they can improve (or even match) last year's result. 

All of the ugliness of Tuesday night came against a backdrop of Rick Nash's absence with an injury of an uncertain nature. Nash took an unpenalized shot to the head from Milan Lucic of the Bruins last week and was thought to be suffering some cloudiness despite playing in the next two games. 

Nash also suffered a shoulder injury in Switzerland during the lockout, though, and Tortorella was typically tight-lipped about what's wrong with the forward. It's hard to believe that Nash could have lifted Tuesday night's game from the rancid to the watchable, but it's scary to think about what future Rangers games will look like if their most effective player continues to be out of the lineup. 

If it's anything like Tuesday night, we'll look back on the lockout as the good old days. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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