- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Tortorella is a lot of things, but he's rarely boring.
He proved that again after his team's 3-0 Game 5 loss Friday night in New Jersey. It was a loss that left the Bolts only one game from elimination in their first-round playoff series.
In his short, but contentious, postgame press conference, Tortorella was armed with a single phrase intended to defuse the inquiring minds of the media.
"We know what we did," Tortorella said, when asked about his team's offensive opportunities.
"We know what we did," Tortorella said, when asked if it was a frustrating loss.
"We know what we did," Tortorella said, when asked just about anything.
Clearly, Tortorella wasn't interested in providing too many straight answers.
Finally, when New York Post hockey scribe Larry Brooks asked Tortorella if he would explain what it was that his team knew that they did, the conversation got a little testy. The two men had a short exchange of expletives; then Tortorella gave a few more very short answers before calmly departing the scene.
(After the press conference, Tortorella and Brooks spoke for a moment and there didn't seem to be any hard feelings.)
The salty exchange was the second of the evening for Tortorella.
In the final two minutes of the game, during a garbage-time fight between Tampa D-man Nolan Pratt and New Jersey forward Jamie Langenbrunner, the steamed Bolts coach could be seen yelling at the Devils bench. He appeared to be directing his anger at New Jersey assistant John MacLean. At one point, Tortorella was grabbing the lapels of his suit jacket in a gesture to the other bench. If there was meaning to that gesture, no one really could figure it out. MacLean didn't appear to respond.
It should be noted that the two men do know one another from their time together with the Rangers during the 1999-2000 season. Tortorella was an assistant coach under John Muckler, while MacLean was still a player.
One Devils player, when asked about the exchange, said that it wasn't something that you could print.
We kind of figured that.
While Tortorella might have been mad at MacLean and a member of the media, he didn't seem too upset with his team.
He said he was "very confident" going back home for Game 6 on Sunday afternoon.
The Lightning players felt the same way.
"I thought we played a solid game tonight," said Tampa pivot Brad Richards. "We did a lot of good things.
"We'll go back to our building, our crowd, and try to win one game. If we do that, we come back here for one game. I think we've played really well here," he said.
And they really did play a pretty good road game. The Bolts outshot the Devils 31-14. They just couldn't put the puck past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who turned in his best performance of the series.
"He made some big saves tonight," said Lightning star winger Martin St. Louis, who played a whopping 26:40. "But he makes big saves every night."
On Sunday afternoon, the Lightning will need a win to keep their season alive. Will they get it? You never know. But, there is one thing you can expect: Tortorella's presence will make it interesting.
Tampa left winger Ruslan Fedotenko should have brought a blanket to the bench: He didn't get a single shift during the game. Tortorella had been displeased with Fedotenko's play during the series. ... Devils defenseman Andy Greene scored the first playoff goal of his career. Greene's shot from the left point slid under Bolts goaltender Johan Holmqvist. With veteran Colin White sidelined by a back injury, Greene has been earning increased playing time in the past two games. He received 16:11 of ice time and finished with a plus-2 rating. ... If the Lightning beat the Devils on Sunday, the teams will play Game 7 in New Jersey on Tuesday night.
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