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Rangers Prospects Top Atlanta Prospects, Improve to 2-0

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Russian center Artem Anisimov made the most of his first game in a Rangers uniform on Saturday afternoon at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, as the 19-year-old scored two goals and assisted on a third in the Blueshirts prospects' 5-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

With the win, the Rangers improved to 2-0 with one round-robin game still remaining against Detroit on Monday. The Blueshirts, one of only two undefeated teams in Traverse City, along with St. Louis, lead the tournament's "Western Conference" and would play for the championship on Tuesday if they beat the Wings. The winner of the Red Wings-Rangers game is already assured a spot in the final.

Anisimov, who joined the team in Traverse City, Mich., after playing in six of the eight Canada-Russia Under-20 Super Series games, was a healthy scratch in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay on Friday night. Given his first opportunity to play on Saturday, the 2006 second-round draft pick showed that he plans to contend for a spot on the Rangers' opening-night roster when training camp opens on Thursday.

Forward Alex Bourret enjoyed a big game against his former Atlanta teammates, scoring once and assisting on two other goals.
Alex Bourret, a former Thrashers prospect acquired by the Rangers at last season's trade deadline, also had three points for the Blueshirts. The Rangers' top line of Bourret, Brandon Dubinsky and Lauri Korpikoski dominated much of the game, but Anisimov turned out to be the real difference-maker.

Anisimov set up the Rangers' first goal late in the opening period, notched the go-ahead tally to make it 3-2 with only 20 seconds remaining in the second, and added another goal in the third for a 5-3 lead. Although his first tally did not stand up as the game-winner it gave the Rangers the lead for good.

Beating the Thrashers was also sweet revenge for what happened one year ago at this tournament, when the Rangers prospects rallied back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game at 4-4 before losing 5-4. Bourret had played for Atlanta in that game.

On Saturday, the Rangers made sure that Atlanta never got back in the game after Anisimov gave a 3-2 lead late in the second period. The Blueshirts stretched that lead to 4-2 at 5:35 of the third, when Dubinsky slammed home the rebound of a shot by Clayton Barthel for Dubinsky's third goal of the tournament. Bourret picked up a second assist on the Dubinsky goal for his third point of the day.

But after Atlanta came right back 25 seconds later to cut the lead to 4-3 on a goal by Bryan Little, the Rangers had an answer in Anisimov. The Russian responded to the Little goal and closed out the scoring by converting an assist from Brodie Dupont at the 8:50 mark.

Anisimov's second-period goal, scored on a power play, resulted from a slick move in the offensive zone. The speedy playmaker took a pass from Bourret and burst through the offensive zone to beat Atlanta goalie Dan Turple at 19:40.

Turple had kept Atlanta in the game, particularly in standing up to the Blueshirts' No. 1 line of three players with AHL experience. The Rangers had outshot the Thrashers 30-19 on the afternoon, making life easy for their own goaltender, 2007 second-round draft pick Antoine Lafleur, who made 16 saves in his first start of the tournament.

Prior to assisting on Anisimov's tally, Bourret had earlier burned his former Atlanta teammates for the tying goal at 15:09 of the second period when he scored off an assist from Ryan Hillier to make it 2-2.

Jordan Owens, who signed with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack for the coming season and will attend the team's main training camp, got the Rangers' other goal with only 1:28 remaining in the first. Owens scored off a pass from Anisimov, who made a nifty play to create the goal.

Skating into the zone, Anisimov deked an Atlanta defenseman to create open ice and open the passing lane to Owens, who sent the puck past Turple.

Owens' goal had tied the score at 1-1, but the Thrashers regained the lead at 9:15 in the second when Atlanta capitalized on a Rangers turnover in the defensive zone to make it 2-1. At the time of Atlanta's second goal, the Blueshirts were outshooting the Thrashers 21-9, and it was not long before Bourret broke through to tie the game again.

Midway through the first period, Arron Alphonso, a free agent trying out for the Thrashers, scored the game's first goal at the 11:00 mark when his shot through a scramble in front of the net deflected off Rangers defenseman Corey Potter and past Lafleur.

Although the score was even after one, the fired-up Blueshirts prospects dominated the opening period, outshooting Atlanta 14-6 and enjoying three power plays.

The Rangers made a handful of lineup changes for Saturday's game, including inserting Anisimov for the first time since he returned from the Canada-Russia Under-20 Super Series. Anisimov was placed on the third line, centering Dupont and Owens.

Mark Lee, a late addition to the prospects' lineup for Traverse City, also got into his first game on Saturday, skating on the fourth line with Joe Barnes and Hillier.

Prospects head coach Ken Gernander made other changes on defense, moving Michael Sauer onto a blueline pairing with fellow 2005 draft pick Marc Staal and sending Barthel from his forward position to a defensive spot alongside 2006 first-round draft pick Bobby Sanguinetti. Barthel, a former Washington Capitals draft pick, was invited to join the Rangers prospects team on a try-out basis.

Michael Busto and 2007 draft pick David Skokan were both healthy scratches on Saturday after playing in the opener against Tampa Bay.

In other games on Saturday, Detroit beat Tampa Bay 3-1 to set up the winner-take-all "Western Conference" showdown on Monday night. The other conference games saw Columbus top Minnesota 8-3 and St. Louis blank Dallas 5-0.
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