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Rangers Dominate Thrashers in Traverse City

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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The Rangers prospects scored a dominating 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers prospects on Monday afternoon in Traverse City, Mich.

Just 24 hours after a tough loss to Carolina, the Blueshirts rebounded in style, getting four unanswered goals to run away with their first victory.

Dale Weise, the prospects team captain, scored the fourth Rangers goal Monday.
Sam Klassen, Tomas Kundratek, Evgeny Grachev and Dale Weise had the goals for the Rangers, who were pressuring the Thrashers right to the end. In the closing seconds, Craig Cunningham nearly made it a 5-1 game when he hit the crossbar behind Atlanta goalie Josh Unice. That opportunity came only after the Rangers killed off a late penalty to Grachev on a day when they were a perfect 6-for-6 shorthanded.

The Blueshirts also had the edge in shots on goal, outshooting Atlanta 35-29.

With their Labor Day victory, the Rangers stayed in the hunt for the tournament title, but their shot at reaching Thursday's first-place game was clouded Monday night by Carolina's win over host Detroit, which enabled the 'Canes to improve to 2-0. Two years ago, a Rangers team featuring Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Artem Anisimov won the Traverse City tournament.

Chad Johnson, a 2009 Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Alaska-Anchorage who came to the Rangers in an off-season trade. got the victory in net with 28 saves. He was making his first start, since Scott Stajcer had started Sunday's opening 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes.

“He (Johnson) was the Player of the Year in the CCHA last year, and he showed why," said Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark. "He was absolutely outstanding in goal, and is a big reason why we were able to go a perfect six-for-six in shorthanded situations.”

Although Kundratek, a defenseman drafted in the 2008 third round, got the official game-winning goal, it was Grachev, a fellow 2008 third-rounder who went on to become the 2008-09 OHL Rookie of the Year, who broke the game open for the Rangers.

Grachev, who was on the ice for all four Rangers goals, gave his team a commanding 3-1 lead at 3:19 of the third period,scoring from the slot on a turnaround wrist shot in which he completely outmuscled Atlanta's Drew Paris. Ryan Bourque and prospects captain Weise assisted on the play.

Grachev's goal -- his first point of the tournament -- was hard-earned. He has been a dominant presence on the ice throughout the first two games.

“Once again, he (Grachev) dominated the game with his size and strength, and was rewarded with a well-deserved goal that demonstrated these attributes," said Clark.

Weise then made it a two-point night when he scored a goal of his own at 6:45 of the third. Weise deflected defenseman Daniel Maggio's blast into the net on the Rangers' 31st shot of the game.

“Dale played a solid game, constantly moving his skates and using the body well," Clark said of Weise. "He was rewarded for it by going to the front of the net and tipping in Maggio’s waist-high shot.”

Kundratek broke a 1-1 tie at 7:48 of the middle period to give the Blueshirts their first lead of the tournament. Ethan Werek, a second-round pick last June, assisted on Kundratek's big slap shot from the point, which beat Atlanta goalie Josh Unice high with just seconds remaining in a Rangers power play.

Through the first two periods, the Rangers had outshot Atlanta 25-18.

With the Rangers in the driver's seat, and enjoying a huge lead in shots on goal during the second period, the game got a little chippy, as Justin Soryal and Evander Kane went off for roughing at 8:47. Big hits were also the order of the day, as defensemen Trevor Glass and Tysen Dowzak were both throwing their weight around for the Rangers.

The Blueshirts had received boost heading into the second period when Atlanta's Jeremy Morin was called for hooking at 19:43, just after Atlanta had killed off the first Rangers man-advantage of the game. The Rangers opened the second with 1:43 of power-play time, but were unable to convert.

The Rangers got another power-play chance at 5:54 of the second, as Anton Kharin went off for interference with shots at 2-2 for the period. The final seconds of that man-advantage resulted in Kundratek's goal.

After falling behind at 15:25 of the first, the Rangers got on the board at the 17:06 mark when Klassen, who recently signed with the team as an undrafted free agent, scored off assists from Roman Horak and Luke Walker. Klassen's screened shot from the point caught the corner and beat Unice.

“Two of our goals came from a defenseman -- Klassen and Kundratek -- and both were solid in the game on both sides of the puck," said Clark. "Klassen’s goal came at a key moment in the game for us, tying the score at one goal apiece, and Kundratek’s goal was a cannon of a shot, one-timed from the point.”

Horak, a 2009 Rangers fith-round pick, got his assist on the heels of a goal scored Sunday against the Hurricanes. The 18-year-old Czech player will be playing in the WHL with Chilliwack this season.

With his third-period assist, Bourque also scored a second point of the tournament after netting a goal on Sunday.

In the first period, the Rangers outshot the Thrashers 12-10 despite giving up six of the game's first seven shots on goal.

Kane, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, scored the game's first goal for Atlanta at 15:25 of the opening period, with Darryl Smith and Paris picking up the assists.

Atlanta's goal reversed some Rangers momentum. By the game's nine-minute mark, Atlanta was already 0-for-2 on the power play, with the Rangers having killed off a holding-the-stick penalty to Werek and a delay-of-game call against Johnson.

Atlanta's best scoring chance during the early power plays came when Andrew Kozek hit the post during the Johnson penalty.

The Thrashers' early shots advantage was mostly due to the power-play time. The Rangers got their best early chance when Chris Chappel fed Luke Pither on a 2-on-1, but Pither fired wide. On the same shift, Pither was also denied by Unice. Later in the game, with only one minute left in the third period, Pither's obvious hustle led to him crashing into Unice behind the net, but the Atlanta goalie was uninjured.

Penalty-killing was again the story for the Blueshirts, who are a perfect 11-for-11 in the two tournament games.

In a change of pace from Sunday, the Rangers dressed 11 forwards and all seven of their defenseman. Forward Paul Crowder and defenseman Mitch Gaulton were the scratches.

Elsewhere in Traverse City on Monday, Minnesota beat Dallas 2-1 in a shootout to improve to 2-0. In other action, Columbus defeated St. Louis 5-4, and the host Red Wings fell to the Hurricanes 5-3.

The Rangers will face the Wings on Wednesday. That game, which begins at 7 p.m., is sure to take place in an arena packed with Detroit fans. If the Rangers win that game, they would be assured of playing for at least third place in the eight-team tournament.

NEW YORK RANGERS PROSPECTS' LINEUP VS. ATLANTA
FORWARD LINES
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Evgeny Grachev Ethan Werek Dale Weise
Daniel Bartek Roman Horak Luke Walker
Justin Soryal Luke Pither Ryan Bourque
Chris Chappell   Craig Cunningham
DEFENSE PAIRINGS
Left Defense Right Defense
Michael Del Zotto Daniel Maggio
Tysen Dowzak Tomas Kundratek
Trevor Glass Sam Klassen
Mike Berube  
Goaltenders: Chad Johnson, Scott Stajcer
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