Rangers blow lead, lose sixth in a row

Eric Boulton #36 of the Atlanta Thrashers fights

Eric Boulton #36 of the Atlanta Thrashers fights with Brandon Prust #8 of the New York Rangers at Philips Arena. (Feb. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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ATLANTA - All the Rangers had to do was protect a one-goal lead for six minutes Friday night and they would have left here with a critical two points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Instead, they left angry and frustrated as Thrashers forward Evander Kane scored twice to erase his team's one-goal deficit and give Atlanta a 2-1 win over the Rangers.

The Rangers have lost six straight, their worst streak since 2006 - and are in seventh place in the East, just two points ahead of the Thrashers and three ahead of ninth-place Carolina with 25 games left.

"They were pretty good at crashing the net and getting second and third opportunities," said Henrik Lundqvist, who started for the first time in eight days and made 32 saves. "Unfortunately we didn't get the puck out. It seemed like they would always get the rebound. They were hungrier. Lot of emotions right now."

The Rangers were leading 2-1 in the third period on Brandon Dubinsky's goal at 1:11, when Marian Gaborik, who had two assists, had an opportunity to put the Rangers ahead by two on a shorthanded penalty shot, after he was pulled down by Brent Sopel. But his shot was stopped by Ondrej Pavelec's right pad at 7:36.

"If I score, the game's over," said Gaborik, who had one of his best games in the past month. He is 0-for-2 on penalty shots this season and 2-for-7 in his career. "I just tried to fake and he left the pad there, it was too close to go up. I've got to score there, bottom line."

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Instead, it was Kane with the big goals. He tied the score at 2 at 14:09 when his rebound from below the right circle, off a deflection, bounced off Lundqvist's shoulder and in.

After Michael Del Zotto misplayed the puck off the end boards, Lundqvist made a save on Nik Antropov and Del Zotto tripped him at 16:04. Lundqvist made two huge saves but Kane pounced on a rebound at the doorstep and backhanded it over him at 17:40.

"We beat ourselves in the end," Tortorella said. "On the winning goal, we don't keep the puck going forward, we bring it back and we just blow it. It's not that they did anything special.

"The second goal, we have a breakdown in coverage."

It appeared that the Rangers got the critical goal they had been seeking when Gaborik set up a streaking Dubinsky with a pass to the slot at 1:11 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Dubinsky's 19th goal was his second in two games and gave the Rangers a lead for the first time in 255:35. But the result was a six-game losing streak, the longest since they dropped seven straight from Dec. 16-29, 2006.

Trailing 1-0 and with Anthony Stewart in the box at 17 seconds of the second period for holding, the Rangers scored on their first power play in 15 tries. Pavelec stopped Gaborik's wrister but Staal scored on the rebound at 26 seconds.

For the fourth straight game, the Rangers did not score in the first period and for the eighth time in nine games, surrendered the first goal. Kane loosened the puck with a check on Matt Gilroy and got the puck to Alex Burmistrov, who found Stewart heading for the net and his backhand beat Lundqvist at 11:08.

The Rangers did have their chances on Pavelec, who stopped Mats Zuccarello with his right pad late and then Derek Stepan on a wraparound late in the period, which ended with 13 shots apiece.

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