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Rangers' lapses seal fate vs. Thrashers

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Brandon Dubinsky and his Rangers teammates were outstanding on the forecheck for long stretches on Wednesday night and nearly got themselves back into it in the third period, but could not overcome their own letdowns earlier in the game vs. Atlanta.

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The Rangers learned an unfortunate lesson in their game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. A quick start and a strong finish are nice, but a complete 60-minute effort is most often required to secure victory.

So Ryan Callahan’s goal 38 seconds into the game and a pair of tallies midway through the third went for naught as an incomplete effort dogged the Rangers in a 6-4 home-ice loss.

“We lost and we deserved to lose,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We are not a good enough team to have letdowns like we did (Wednesday) night. We didn’t play well enough consistently enough, and it cost us.”

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Rangers roared out of the starting gate, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the game’s first minute on Callahan’s second goal in as many games. Camped just outside the blue crease, Callahan tapped Artem Anisimov’s centering feed into the net just as most of The Garden Faithful were still settling into their seats.

When the Blueshirts continued their assault on Thrashers goalie Chris Mason -- racing out to a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal -- it looked like the home team could be capable of running the visitors out of the building.

However, Atlanta calmly got itself back into the game by taking over the neutral zone and forcing the Rangers into repeated turnovers with a successful trapping style of play. By the end of the first period, the game was tied 1-1, and the Thrashers held a 12-10 advantage in shots.

“We were playing really well the first half of the period,” said Tortorella. “But then we started making turnovers in the neutral zone and allowed them to play 140 feet (instead of a full 200). We didn’t play the way we needed to play through the 60 (minutes). We played in spurts.”

The Thrashers eventually built a 5-2 lead by the 5:01 mark of the third period as turnovers and poor play in front of goaltender Martin Biron -- who was making his second start of the season -- burned the Blueshirts.

To their credit, the Rangers did not give up, instead rallying to within a goal when Todd White scored his first of the season -- ironically against his former team -- at 7:56, and Brian Boyle netted his third at 10:07. Despite being down just one goal with half the period to play, the amped-up Rangers could not finish off the comeback, with Andrew Ladd’s empty-netter sealing the deal with 23.2 seconds left to play.

“All around it was not a great game for us,” said Callahan, who recorded a goal and an assist on Wednesday. “It was too little, too late with the push at the end. When you play a game like that you can’t expect to have a good 10 minutes and win it.”

Forward Todd White scores his first goal as a Ranger vs. his former Atlanta teammates on Wednesday. White's goal was part of a stirring, late third-period comeback attempt that was unable to tie the game.
To add to the Rangers’ woes, two important players were injured during the game. Anisimov blocked a shot with the outside of his right ankle in the second period and did not play at all in the third. Tortorella said after the game that Anisimov will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.

Anisimov, who has three goals and six points this season, was limping badly outside the locker room once the game was over. He said simply, “I’m probably going to be all right”, but clearly was in pain.

Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival joined Anisimov in the locker room with about five minutes remaining in the third period when he hyper-extended his knee. Of the two injuries, Tortorella believed that Rozsival’s was less serious, though he will be further evaluated on Thursday.

To rally as they did without Anisimov, for a bit without Rozsival, and without rookie center Derek Stepan, who was benched in favor of White during the third period, was an impressive feat for the Rangers, although not impressive enough to wipe out the hole they had created.

“We didn’t give up, I mean we were down three goals and we went right after them and kept playing,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “That’s a positive we can take into Friday. But we were a little lackadaisical for parts of the game and that ended up costing us. We have to make sure we’re ready to put in a full 60 (minutes).”

The Rangers’ next chance to play that complete game comes on Friday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in the finale of their current three-game homestand.
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