The Rangers wasted no time getting on the board in this game, scoring 38 seconds into the first period. Ryan Callahan finished an Artem Anisimov feed at the top of the crease for his second goal of the season and his second in two games. They did not let up after that, continuing their pressure-filled forecheck through the first half of the period. In the second half, though, Atlanta started to gain control of the tempo. Eventually, Bryan Little went coast to coast while dancing around the Ranger defense, ultimately ending up all alone against Biron when he slid a backhander through Marty's legs. Ugly defense by New York on that play, but a pretty goal by Little.
Midway through the second period Evander Kane would take a touch pass from Alexander Burmistrov into the slot where he rifled a low wrister past Biron to give the Thrashers a 2-1 lead. About two minutes later Sean Avery's hard work along the boards would pay off, as his quick-thinking wraparound beat a sliding Mason to tie things up. However, Niclas Bergfors took advantage of a Marc Staal turnover by lugging the puck down ice and sniping the corner on Biron to re-gain the lead for Atlanta, 3-2 at the end of two.
The third period started off awful for the home team, with the Thrashers scoring back-to-back goals in the first five minutes. Eric Boulton's backhander over the shoulder of Biron was the first, while Dustin Byfuglien's rocket slapshot was the second. It seemed as if the game was over at that point, but the Rangers still had some fight in them.
Since Artem Anisimov left the game with an injury (an ankle injury that he will need to get an MRI on), Todd White slid up to the first line between Brandon Dubinksy and Ryan Callahan. He capitalized on a lucky bounce off the back boards that landed on the tape of his stick. He buried it for his first as a Ranger. Following that Sean Avery fed Brian Boyle in front for a one-timer and the Blueshirts were only down by one; 5-4. Unfortunately they were not able to find the tying goal and Andrew Ladd scored the empty-netter in the final minute, so the Rangers' winning streak would come to an end.
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This one hurts because the team was so close to completing the comeback. I think at times they showed signs of the club we saw during the win streak, but at other times they looked like the club we saw during the losing streak. Against a young team like Atlanta, you cannot expect to win games playing like that. You need a consistent effort, and that is what John Tortorella's squad lacked on this night.
Marty Biron was not bad in this contest. I know some people will attack him for the ones he should have stopped, but to me, there was way too much activity in front of his net. The Thrashers kept throwing their centers to the top of the crease and the Blueshirts did nothing to remove them. That was a major difference I noticed from this past weekend and tonight. The defense was not as aggressive and used their sticks more often than their bodies, which hurt them.
Anyway, Biron made some key saves in the game that allowed for his team to make the comeback. Too many defensive breakdowns led to legitimate scoring chances for Atanta, but Marty came up big on quite a few. He was not great, he was not bad, and this loss was definitely not his fault.
John Tortorella, in the second period, was forced to take one of those famous timeouts in which his face turns as red as a tomato. This was most likely due to the inconsistent effort by his players, especially when they stood around and watched the Thrashers' younger players work the forecheck and create chances. They also did not know what to do when the Atlanta defensemen would come up on offense and pressure the Rangers in their own zone. Dustin Byfuglien was the most noticeable when doing this, as he recorded six shots on goal in the game.
Michael Del Zotto had a night to forget. His outlet passes were off the mark, he was guilty of numerous turnovers and he also coughed up the puck on the empty-netter as well. He is young, so this is routine, but I have to point it out just because it had an impact on the game.
On offense, Sean Avery stood out to me, as did the first liners (Dubinsky, Callahan, etc.). I also think upon being moved up, Todd White skated well and was great on the forecheck. If Anisimov is out long-term, you can bet Torts will consider keeping White on that line for the time being. But I am hoping Artem is able to come back as soon as possible, because he has been one of the better players on the team throughout the season.
Sean Avery's work ethic was unbelievable tonight. The way he worked the boards and fought off the opposition was something to behold, and something that John Tortorella will greatly appreciate. His linemates, Ruslan Fedotenko and Derek Stepan, also supported him well in the offensive zone.
The Rangers are now 4-3-1 on the season and will be hosting the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday when they look to get back to their winning ways. That will not be an easy two points, either, so the Blueshirts will need a much better effort than what they displayed tonight against the Thrashers.