After the game, Tortorella was in prime form. Much to the chagrin of the mainstream media, he remained curt in his answers, and notably upset with the result. And as usual, none of his quotes were particularly useful for any other narrative despite his contempt for the people asking the questions.
Tortorella was clearly perturbed, and what coach wouldn't be after watching a second-period lead evaporate. Despite the number of times he screamed at his team, they looked flat in the first period, showed flashes of greatness in the second before coughing up the lead and eventually losing a very winnable game.
However, the story has remained fixated on him and not the lackadaisical play of his skaters. Those same skaters who couldn't complete an outlet pass, win board battles, or, during the entire postseason, failed to score more than three goals in any one game. This club, like the Philadelphia Flyers before them, could be in big trouble heading into Game 3 in New Jersey. And the Devils know it.
"They're a hell of a team. They're hard to play against in their own building," Martin Brodeur explained to reporters after the game. "And we just have to take this momentum into our own building now and make our building a tough place for them to play also."
Throughout the first two playoff series, the Rangers have been relatively immune to momentum. They traded wins and losses for seven consecutive games against the Washington Capitals. In their first round series, home ice, or winning the last game even barely made a difference as the Ottawa Senators left everything on the ice through seven games. But at some time momentum has to kick in.
Nevertheless, the Devils remained confident, yet focused.
"Well, you know we have to take care of business at home," said head coach Pete DeBoer. "It's a tough building to win in. And it's nice to get a split. But there's a lot of hockey left. And glad to be going home for two."
As much as the Devils think and essentially know they can win, they won't be the team to start explaining that to the press. They should be fully aware they outplayed the Rangers through most of two games -- the Rangers honestly look sloppy and slow -- and hold in their hand the potential to enter the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2003. Momentum can carry them deeper into the playoffs but determination, above all factors, is what has caused their current success.
"I think we have to really play a patient game, play our type of game," Brodeur added. "Grinding it out and put our head down regardless of what happens, bounce here, bounce there, we have to be strong mentally. That's what makes you win in the playoffs on the road."
Through two games, the Rangers have out-hit and out-blocked the Devils. Once known as a defensive juggernaut, the Devils have switched their gears to aggressive forechecking and driving hard to the net with favorable results. Like Marty alluded to, this team is ready for anything which includes coming from behind, holding a lead, or grinding everything out of their opponent. In short, they aren't out of it until they are officially eliminated, and right now that outcome seems a lot less likely.
Entering Game 3 in New Jersey, both teams will need to take extra consideration into their preparation. While the Devils clearly will start the game with a boost from their home crowd, their advantage could be short lived. The Rangers will benefit from three much-needed days of rest before they are forced to get back into overdrive while the Devils simply need to remain prepared for the worst.
Game 3 will be important mainly because up until now momentum has meant nothing to the Rangers. They win, then they lose. They lose, and then they win. Rinse, repeat, play for the Stanley Cup. However, if the Devils take Game 3, we could be looking at series that perhaps doesn't go seven games. But that outlook clearly relies on a number of factors.
Can Martin Brodeur continue to shine as he has for 18+ years? Will the Devils find a way to get their shot through the myriad of bodies in the shooting lanes? Can the Rangers finally break out offensively? These questions, and more, will be answered during Game 3, and will be a determining factor for the rest of the series.
One thing is for sure, this best-of-five series could go either way.
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