NHL Game Summary - NY Rangers at Atlanta
(Thursday, March 26th)
Final Score: Atlanta 5, NY Rangers 4 (SO)
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Todd White scored the equalizer in the third period and netted the shootout winner, as the Atlanta Thrashers erased a late three-goal deficit to cool off the surging New York Rangers in a 5-4 victory at Philips Arena.
Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists while Slava Kozlov and Colby Armstrong added goals in regulation for Atlanta.
With just 68 points, the Thrashers have been relegated to a spoiler role down the stretch and appeared to be relishing that task earlier this month, when it set a franchise-record with six straight wins. The club had since dropped three out of four contests prior to Thursday's win.
"You hang in there and hang around and not quit in the third. We haven't got a lot to play for but I think we owe our fans a solid effort no matter what happens. We went out an played as hard as we could and got a couple goals," Atlanta head coach John Anderson said.
Kari Lehtonen started between the pipes for Atlanta but took a shot from Sean Avery with five minutes left in the opening stanza and gave way to Johan Hedberg between periods due to what is being called an upper body injury. Lehtonen had one get by him in facing 10 shots while Hedberg made 14 saves the rest of the way.
Chris Drury scored and added two helpers for New York, which was aiming for its fifth win in six games. Nikolai Zherdev, Nik Antropov and Markus Naslund also lit the lamp but Stephen Valiquette, getting the start for Henrik Lundqvist, gave up three of Atlanta's four goals over the last 20:21 of regulation in facing 30 shots overall.
The Rangers are 8-3-1 over their last 12 outings and at 87 points currently hold down the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind idle Pittsburgh and two ahead of Montreal for the eighth and final playoff seed.
"We have to stay up. We got a big game again in a couple days. Nobody wants to get too down, but tonight was not exactly a forward performance for us," said Valiquette.
The loss came in the start of two straight on the road for New York, which will also visit the rival Penguins on Saturday.
Naslund stuffed in a rebound with 2:01 remaining in the second for a three- goal advantage but Kovalchuk scored on a wraparound just before the horn to halve the deficit.
"Nothing was really said after the second just work and skate; it's a game of speed. We need to play for ours fans right now. We want to be better," Kovalchuk said.
The Thrashers inched to within one 3:30 into the third as Armstrong skated from behind the net to Valiquette's left and banked the puck in off the goaltender's body with a backhander.
Then with 6:50 to go Kovalchuk carried the puck down the right wing and fed White in front for a bang-bang score that tied the game and eventually forced overtime.
Both goaltenders were up to the task in the shootout following a fruitless extra session before White finally got one by Valiquette skating to his left and roofing one into the top right corner to begin the sixth round of shooters. Hedberg then proceeded to stone Scott Gomez to clinch the win.
"Yeah, I thought we sucked. I think we're fortunate enough to get a point. I didn't give a (expletive) what the guys talked about; we sucked," New York head coach John Tortorella remarked.
The Rangers had a pair of goals wiped out in the first period, the last of which came via a Drury high-stick in the crease. The goal was waved off after a lengthy review, but New York got its 1-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first when Zherdev collected a rebound in the slot off a Brandon Dubinsky shot and wristed it past Lehtonen on the stick side.
Atlanta evened things at 6:28 of the second when Kozlov cleaned up a broken centering attempt and unleased a slap shot from the slot through a screen in front.
A Drury one-timer was tipped home by Antropov for a power-play marker at 11:04 and Drury put one in himself just 1:25 later taking an outlet pass from Valiquette up the right wing and sneaking a slap shot under the right arm of Lehtonen for the 3-1 lead.
New York is just 16-16-5 as the guest this season...Atlanta kicked off a three-game homestand Thursday and will also welcome Ottawa and Buffalo to town on the residency. The Thrashers have a poor 14-19-3 record at Philips Arena this year, but they have won six of their last eight home tests...The Thrashers evened up the season series at two games apiece in what was this year's final encounter between the clubs...Atlanta has won seven of the past 11 meetings with New York and the Blueshirts have dropped five out of their seven matchups at Philips Arena...White also added an assist...The Rangers have an 8-4-2 record since head coach Tom Renney was fired and replaced by Tortorella...It was Valiquette's first career assist and Drury's fourth three- point game of the season.
03/26 23:21:41 ET