For whatever reason, games against the New York Rangers can turn into occasionally chippy affairs. Maybe it’s pent-up hostility from the four game playoff sweep four years ago, or maybe they just don’t care for the team, but you can count on some hits being doled out. Tonight was no exception, but tonight also was the first game that I have seen that I can safely say was muddled and rough game. The Thrashers had spurts of energy, and then stretches at a time where they couldn’t complete a pass to save their lives, couldn’t maintain possession of the puck, and seemed to be communicating as well as North and South Korea.
The game began in Atlanta’s favor, with Tobias Enstrom adding to his assist totals (he’s up to 33 for those playing along at home) and his Norris Trophy consideration. Firing a shot from just beneath the blueline at Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, the puck was in perfect position for Nik Antropov to redirect it past the keeper. The lead didn’t last as long as the team would have liked, and the second period saw a goal by new arrival to the Rangers Wojtek Wolski.
At about eight and a half minutes into the second period, Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd laid a clean check on Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, sending Staal to the ice. Dan Girardi took exception to the hit, grabbed Ladd’s jersey and held it for about thirty seconds before he finally got Ladd to fight. Ladd landed a few punches, but the fight ended as a tie, as both players stood there and let the refs come in and break it up. Ladd might’ve been better off just standing there and letting Girardi take a roughing call for the powerplay:
Anthony Stewart put the Thrashers ahead by one again, by being in the right place at the right time. Bryan Little shot the puck at Lundqvist, but instead the puck hit Stewart. Stewart wound up practically scoring from his back as he swept the puck into the net.
The Thrashers killed off a five on three penalty which started fourteen into the third period, which was an impressive fete for a team who have been having penalty kill problems and whose PK entered this game ranked an abysmal 29th in the league. The Thrashers played with a lot of jump afterwards, hitting hard and really applying the pressure to Lundqvist, but Brian Boyle put a stop to any momentum that the team had by scoring with just over six minutes to go to force overtime.
The lone shootout goal was scored by Mats Zuccarello, whose slow approach drew Pavelec to his left, which made it easy for Zuccarello to slip it by the goaltender. Pavelec stopped 29 of 31 shots, but despite his improving play as of late, Atlanta hasn’t been able to score at the clip that they were scoring at during their hot November and December months. They’ve won just three games this month, and have a 3-3-3 record. They still hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, and gained a point on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight.
Tomorrow at five marks the Thrashers’ last meeting this season with the first place Tampa Bay Lightning. The Thrashers are carrying a ten game losing streak against the Bolts with them as baggage on their charter flight tonight.