The Atlanta Thrashers snapped the Rangers three-game winning streak as they beat the Blueshirts 6-4 Wednesday night in front of the Madison Square Garden Faithful.
Although the score suggests the Thrashers skated circles around the Rangers through the 60 minutes of game time, the match was actually a back-and-forth battle for the lead that continued until midway through the third period.
Drawing first blood 38 seconds into the game, the Rangers came out aggressive and hungry for a victory. Ryan Callahan’s goal got the crowd to its feet and put a spring in the skates of the Blueshirts as he tapped in a pass from Artem Anisimov to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Within the first few minutes the Rangers game seemed to be drawn up by the military as they executed a full-on assault on Thrashers goalie Chris Mason. Having a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal in the early minutes of the first period, the Rangers looked unstoppable.
Unfortunately, the intensity that carried the Rangers in the beginning started to come in spurts throughout the rest of the game.
It was fleeting moments of weakness, unsteady goaltending, and they team’s inconsistent play that led to their demise as the Thrashers were able to capitalize of the Rangers’ mistakes.
The inconsistent play began midway through the first period when Thrashers forward Bryan Little was able to settle a pass from Andrew Ladd and slide the puck under the pads of Rangers’ goaltender Martin Biron to tally his first goal of the season.
During the second period the Rangers fell behind a goal after Evander Kane cut through the center in front of the Rangers’ goal and scored his sixth goal of the season. But the Blueshirts bounced back shortly when Sean Avery scored to tie the game.
It was the Thrashers third goal, which was the turning point of the game, that made all the difference. The goal came off of a misplay by Marc Staal who couldn’t handle a puck near the boards in the neutral zone. Unable to settle the puck, Staal inadvertently helped the Thrashers take the lead as Niclas Bergfors played the puck Staal couldn’t handle and created a 2-on-1 threat. With Staal trying to block the shot and prevent a pass, Bergfors had the opportunity to take the puck himself and fire it past Biron.
“This was probably the worst I’ve played since I’ve been here,” Staal said after the game. “I wanted to make a better play than I did.”
Although he was disappointed in his play, the Rangers breakdown can’t be blamed on Staal alone. Callahan said he blames the loss on the team’s inability to “get the pucks behind their goals and countercheck.”
Even with all the disappointing mistakes, one thing that can’t be taken away from the Rangers uneven performance last night was that they played with heart.
“We didn’t give up, I mean we were down three goals and we went right after them and kept playing,” said Staal. “That’s a positive we can take into Friday.”
Trailing 5-2 in the third period, the Rangers never quit. They finished the game the way they started out with a lot of intensity and aggressiveness. Scoring two quick goals (Todd White and Brian Boyle), the Rangers were in reach of a startling comeback.
A victory seemed in reach as the Blueshirts were skating with an extra man after John Tortorella pulled Biron. But the comeback fell short when Ladd’s empty-netter sealed a Thrasher victory with 23.2 seconds left to play in regulation.
“We didn’t play the way we needed to play through the 60. We deserved to lose,” said Tortorella. “We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that kind of spot. We are not a good enough team to have letdowns like we did. We didn’t play well enough, consistent enough in all three zones.”
The Rangers hope to play consistently and improve their home-ice record on Friday when the take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Michal Rozsival left the game with a hyper-extended knee.
Anisimov did not play in the third period after he blocked a shot in the second. Tortorella said he will most likely need an MRI and they should know more later today.