Despite registering a season high 48 shots on goal against the Thrashers, the Rangers were once again unable to convert on prime scoring chances, including three or more breakaways, and ended up falling to Atlanta 3-2 in the shootout. At the same time, the effort was there and the Blueshirts poured everything they had into this game. In fact, if New York does not allow that shorthanded goal to Colby Armstrong in the third period, they win that game 2-1, but unfortunately that is not the way it went down.
In the first period, the Rangers came out and outshot the Thrashers 16-6, yet found themselves trailing due to a powerplay goal by Slava Kozlov when he launched a slapper off the far post and past Lundqvist to give the Thrashers a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way until Michael Del Zotto made a remarkable pass from behind his own goal-line to lead Ryan Callahan on the breakaway 17 minutes into the second period. Callahan made his usual backhand-forehand deke to beat goaltender Jonas Hedberg low. This powerplay tally was Ryan’s seventh goal on the season and fourth goal in his last eight games. Good to see that he is finally awakening and emerging as a secondary goal scorer on this team.
In the third stanza, Colby Armstrong capitalized on a fortuitous bounce off of the boards which eluded Del Zotto and ended up on his tape. Armstrong roofed a wrister over the shoulder of Lundqvist to regain the lead for Atlanta. That did not last long, however, as almost exactly a minute later Del Zotto wowed us with his passing abilities, when he fed Marian Gaborik for the one-timer goal which was Marian’s 23rd on the season (leads NHL in goals).
This was followed by a 5 on 3 powerplay opportunity for the Thrashers when both Girardi and Staal went to the box at a crucial time. Thankfully, Henrik Lundqvist lead the Blueshirts to a tremendous kill which saw Hank on his hands and knees throwing his body around to make saves. No goals in overtime, so we would go to the shootout where Kovalchuk and Kozlov scored, and Gaborik and Kotalik did not.
Brandon Dubinsky, returning from his broken hand injury suffered on November 7th, was one of the better players for the Rangers out there tonight. I, personally, expected him to be slow and a little hesitant, but he sure proved me wrong. He skated like mad, he was fantastic on the forecheck, and even threw hits when he had the chance. Dubinsky finished the night with 24:06 of ice-time and did not get a shot on goal in that span.
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Chris Higgins and Ryan Callahan are the two other players who I thought played a very similar game to Dubinsky’s. By that I mean the effort was there, they skated, and created scoring chances. No, Higgins was unable to bury any of those golden opportunities, but the fact that he is getting there and getting shots is a good sign, and the goals will eventually come. Callahan is back to old form in that he is everywhere on the ice and scoring goals, much like last season. I am extremely pleased with his game as of late.
Marian Gaborik was also a difference maker tonight, just as he is in almost every game he plays in. Gabs received a total of 28 minutes and 19 seconds of ice-time, which is unbelievable for any player on the team, let alone a forward. I do not think you can really question his health status when he is able to keep the motor running for extended periods of time in fast-pace contests like he did at MSG in this one.
Sean Avery and Vinny Prospal also had their chances in this game but obviously did not put them in the net. Prospal continues to amaze me with the way he can find passing lanes and the same goes for Avery when he is able to attract four players to him almost every time he even approaches the crease. Sean was in the middle of everything tonight.
The defense, I thought, played very well as a whole, but the two individual performances that I took notice of were that of Mike Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival. Not for their defensive effort, but rather for their passing percentage and execution. While Rozy’s passes may not have been converted for goals, they were certainly effective and there were a few of them. Same thing for Del Zotto, who created both Ranger goals in this one. Staal and Girardi were also very strong in their own zone shutting down the high-flying Thrashers.
Henrik Lundqvist was sharp, especially when he had to come up big during the third period penalty kill, but was out-waited by Kovalchuk, which was a marvelous goal, and simply beat by Kozlov in the shootout. It should not have gotten to that point, though, as the team needs to score more than two goals when you record a season high 48 shots on goal. As Callahan said in his postgame interview, nine out of ten times you will win the game with shot totals like that, and tonight was the odd minority.
I believe that there is no better time for a home and home with the Islanders to approach the Rangers at this point. The Isles will force them to do everything they did in tonight’s tilt and more, and if we can walk away victorious in both, you better believe the confidence level will pick up greatly. That home and home will begin on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
[Note by Jim Schmiedeberg, 12/15/09 7:53 AM EST Here are the notes and quotes from the Rangers. Guess what? Another sellout!]
NEW YORK RANGERS POST-GAME NOTES AND QUOTES
December 14, 2009 - New York Rangers 2, Atlanta Thrashers 3 SO (Game #32, Home #16)
- The Rangers were defeated by the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-2, in a shootout in front of a sold-out crowd (18,200) at Madison Square Garden; the Blueshirts are now 14-15-3 (31 pts.) on the season, including a 7-8-1 mark at home.
- New York have sold out 172 consecutive regular season games, dating back to Nov. 5, 2005 against New Jersey; the last regular season non-sellout was Oct. 31, 2005 vs. Montreal (17,697); including the playoffs, the Rangers sellout streak is now at 186 games.
- The Rangers tallied two power play goals in five opportunities to improve to 30.0% (18-60) at MSG this season; each of the Rangers last four goals have come on the power play dating back to Saturday's contest against Buffalo.
- Ryan Callahan tallied two points on the power play (one goal and one assist) and delivered a game-high six hits; he has notched a goal in each of the last two games, and has four points (three goals and one assist) in the last five.
- Marian Gaborik notched one power play goal in a game-high 28:19 of icetime, and has recorded four points (two goals and two assists) in the last four games; he has tallied a power play goal in each of the last two games to increase his league-leading total to 11 with the man advantage.
- Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto tallied two power play assists in 21:19 of icetime; he has now recorded three assists in the last two games.
- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of 27 shots in the contest, including 13 saves in the second period.
- Chris Drury led all skaters with 16 faceoff wins, and finished with a 62% (16-27) success rate in the faceoff circle; Sean Avery registered a game-high seven shots.
- Brandon Dubinsky logged 24:06 of icetime in his return to the lineup after missing the previous 13 games due to injury.
- The Rangers practice schedule for tomorrow, Dec. 15, is 12:00 p.m. at the MSG Training Center.
- The Rangers return to action on Monday, Dec. 16, when they will face-off against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in the first game of a home-and-home set; the game will be televised live on MSG Network and can be heard on 1050 ESPN Radio.
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John Tortorella on tonight's game...
"Other than six or seven minutes at the beginning of that second period, I thought we played a good hockey game. We just have to keep on trying to build on it. We have to get over the hump of that second goal. We had our chances to score our third one but we didn't get it done. We have a lot of good things to build off of."
Henrik Lundqvist on tonight's game...
"I don't think it matters who we are playing right now. We have to see every game as an opportunity for us to turn this around. We have to keep pushing each other to have the energy that you need to win a hockey game. You can't walk around and feel sorry for yourself. All of the guys have to work together."
Chris Drury on tonight's game...
"We've got to keep doing the right things, keep playing like we're playing. 48 shots and I think we got 38 last game - if we keep getting over 30 shots something's going to give here."