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Thrashers snap slide by beating Rangers 6-4

by Staff

NEW YORK -- Craig Ramsay stood on the bench about halfway through the third period, listening to the Madison Square Garden crowd work itself into a frenzy. There was music blaring, the home team was celebrating again -- and the Atlanta Thrashers' coach had one thought penetrating his mind.

"Uh-oh," Ramsay said with a smile.

Worried he most definitely was after the Rangers cut the Thrashers' three-goal lead down to one with 9:53 to play Wednesday night. But then Ramsay heard the sweet sounds of positive reinforcement coming from all around him. It was his players, those same players who let the Rangers waltz right back into the game, selling their teammates on the benefits of sticking with it, not letting down again, not giving in to New York's obvious momentum.

They didn't. The Thrashers instead slowed the game down, held their ground and their lead and finally cashed in on an empty-net goal for a 6-4 wild win at the Garden to snap a three-game losing streak.

"Wow, we are fun to watch," Ramsay said with a hint of sarcasm. "We talk a lot about composure. The coaches have to be composed on the bench and the players have to be composed when they step on the ice. They have to want the puck and that's one of the key things that I saw in the last while. Everybody on the bench wanted to play and everybody wanted the puck."

Atlanta staked itself to a 5-2 lead just 5:01 into the third period on a hard-working goal by Eric Boulton and a rifle of a shot from Dustin Byfuglien that whizzed over Martin Biron's left shoulder. The Rangers' goalie, starting for the second time this season and for the first time as a Ranger at Madison Square Garden, was beaten on the same type of shot by Niclas Bergfors earlier in the game.

The Thrashers appeared to have control of the game, but Todd White and Brian Boyle scored just over two minutes apart to make it 5-4 and put the Thrashers' coach on the brink of insanity. The Rangers got six more shots after Boyle scored, but Chris Mason stopped all of them and Atlanta blocked two others before Andrew Ladd hit the empty net with 24 seconds left.

"We gave them two goals there at the end, but when we had only a one-goal lead we pretty much didn't give them anything," Bergfors said. "Everybody stepped up and did what they had to do. We have a strong team and that's what we showed. It was stupid to give them two goals like that, though."

Bergfors and linemate Bryan Little were feeling particularly good following the game because not only did their team pick up two points, both picked up their first goals of the season.

Little scored in the first period on a solo rush from his own blue line. He went around both Sean Avery at center ice and Marc Staal in the Rangers' zone before beating Biron with a backhand drag to make it 1-1.

Bergfors gave the Thrashers a 3-1 lead in the second period when instead of passing to Ladd on a 2-on-1 rush, he blistered a hard shot over Biron's left shoulder.

Bergfors and Little need to be goal scorers on this team, so if they can get going it will give the rest of the guys a breather from having to try to pick up the slack.

"We play pretty well and there are games where we've been really good for the majority of the game, but we're counting on goals from a lot of people that have been considered third and fourth line players," Ramsay said. "I don't think they are and they're showing that they're not, but if we can get our offensively gifted people to score what a difference it can make. It did tonight."

The Rangers again realized what a difference hard-working shifts can make -- because they scored all of their goals that way. However, as coach John Tortorella lamented, they weren't consistent enough Wednesday after playing three pretty strong and complete games to beat Toronto, Boston and New Jersey.

"We're not good enough to let down. We're not good enough," Tortorella said. "Whether we're healthy or not, we're not a good enough team to have letdowns. We have to learn to take that next step."

Health, though, continues to be a big concern for the Rangers. They're sweating out another potential scare now with center Artem Anisimov expected to undergo an MRI on his right ankle Thursday.

Anisimov said he a shot hit him between bones on the outside of the ankle in the second period and the pain grew worse and worse so he couldn't play in the third. He's hopeful that he'll be fine, but he was limping noticeably as he walked out of the arena.

Defenseman Michal Rozsival also hyperextended his knee, but Tortorella said he should be OK.

"Arty took a shot off the ankle and we're not sure," the coach said. "We have to get an MRI. That one is more serious than Rosy's now. We'll find out more (Thursday)."

Tortorella also admitted that he was not at all impressed with Biron's home debut as a Ranger. The coach opted to start Biron over Henrik Lundqvist because he liked the way Biron played in Toronto last Thursday and he wants Lundqvist to be able to get a breather now and then so he's fresher down the stretch than he was last season.

However, Biron made only 20 saves and was beaten twice on his high glove side on shots that he saw the entire way.

"We need some saves there," Tortorella said. "In that type of game if we get a couple more saves it may be the difference."

It was for the Thrashers, who with a wink here and a wink there knew they had it all the way, even after the Rangers made it very interesting going into the final 10 minutes.

"There were a number of guys that stepped up and said, 'Calm down, it's our game, keep the puck,' " Ramsay said. "We finally ran a couple of cycles and slowed the pace down a little in their zone. We played much better after that."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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