The Rangers started just fine, scoring a goal 38 seconds after the opening faceoff. And they made it a game in the third period by scoring twice to cut a three-goal deficit to one.
It was what happened in between that ended the Rangers' three-game winning streak, as the Atlanta Thrashers left Madison Square Garden with a 6-4 victory.
"All around it wasn't a great game for us," said forward Ryan Callahan, who set the Garden rocking by putting the Rangers in front before some of the crowd could sit down following the National Anthem. "When you play a game like that, you can't expect to have a good 10 minutes and win it."
The "good 10 minutes" Callahan alluded to came in the midway point of the third period when the Rangers scored twice in a span of 2:11 to cut their deficit to 5-4. They just missed getting even a few minutes later when Matt Gilroy's shot hit goalie Chris Mason's glove and clanged off the crossbar. Andrew Ladd's empty-netter in the final minute ended the Rangers' last hopes.
Despite all the things that could've, should've and, at times, did go right for the Blueshirts, the positives were greatly overshadowed by the plethora of glitches throughout the 60-minute effort.
"We lost and we deserved to lose," coach John Tortorella he said. "We shouldn't put ourselves in that type of spot."
That "spot" included starting the game like a team headed for a championship run -- the Rangers outshot, outhit, outskated and outscored the Thrashers in the first 10 minutes..
"We played really well the first half of the [first] period," Tortorella said.
"All around it wasn't a great game for us. When you play a game like that, you can't expect to have a good 10 minutes and win it." -- Ryan CallahanBut the lapses started to accumulate after that -- Brian Little left Sean Avery in his wake at center ice, turnstiled Mark Staal and beat Martin Biron for the first of four highlight-reel goals to tie the game late in the first period, and the dangerous decisions turned into trends in the second period and early in the third, when Atlanta raced to a 5-2 lead.
Moving forward, while needing to pay closer attention to the finer points of the game, the Rangers can use their good start, three-game winning streak and comeback effort as building blocks.
Consistent winning, after all, is a process.
"We didn't give up," Staal said. "We were down three goals and kept going after them and kept playing. That's a positive we can take. Obviously, we can't get down 5-2 -- but to be down three goals, usually you're out of it. We managed to get ourselves back in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win it."
A game they could have -- but one, as per the coach, that they deserved to lose.