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Out of Control: Thrashers spoilers in 3-0 derailing of NYR

There was no remarkable third period comeback for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden last night and without some help, there may very well be no playoffs for the second consecutive season.
A golden opportunity to climb into the postseason on their own was shredded tonight when the Atlanta Thrashers, already eliminated from the playoffs, derailed the Rangers’ 5-0-1 streak at home with a surprisingly easy 3-0 victory. The fading Blueshirts, unable to hit the net all night, hang on by a thread, and now will need help on the weekend.
“Flat, not just one, but a lot,” said coach John Tortorella, who tried his best to not paint a bleak post-game picture. “We just didn’t make a play. All we lost tonight was control. Obviously we have to watch the scoreboard and we have to win the next game.”
With 91 points, the Rangers magic number remains at three. Should the Hurricanes, with 89 points, lose or manage just a point against the Thrashers tonight and the Rangers beat the Devils on Saturday, the Blueshirts will clinch a spot. But they have lost three straight to non-playoff teams.
“We’re still in eighth place until somebody shows me otherwise, that’s the attitude we have to have,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “We understood what was at stake and we didn’t get the job done. We can’t get those three hours back.”
Forget three hours, the Rangers would like 15 seconds back in the second period. After a scoreless first period, Rob Schremp, with a high wrister from the top of the right circle at 7:42, and Andrew Ladd’s backhander after splitting Marc Staal and Dan Girardi at 7:57 established a two-goal edge. Meanwhile, the Rangers couldn’t convert anything against Ondrej Pavelec, who finished with 29 saves. “He wasn’t hot,” said Tortorella. “We laid an egg.”
That egg could easily crack.
If teams are tied in points at the end of the regular season, the first tiebreaker is non-shootout wins. Both the Rangers and Carolina have 34. The second tie-breaker, if necessary, is head-to-head and Carolina has the edge in that with six points to four in the four games. Carolina is red-hot, 5-1-1 in the last seven.
The Rangers, on the other hand, were ice cold last night. Already 0 for 3 on the power play, and 1 for 26 in the last eight games, the Blueshirts had 1:23 left on another power play entering the third period, but the outcome was the same: close, but no results. “We had our chances,” said Brian Boyle, “but we couldn’t finish.”
No one picked up their game in the absence of heart-and-soul guy Ryan Callahan, out with a fractured right foot. Marian Gaborik, struggling through a brutal season, hasn’t scored in eight games, and Eric Boulton, not exactly a speed demon, outraced him to the crease for a deflection when the Thrashers streaked down on a 2 on 1 and scored their third goal at 4:19. Gaborik, who had one shot on goal, was not on the ice for the rest of the way. Tortorella declined to discuss Gaborik after the game.
“If you don’t play up to your standards,” said veteran Vinny Prospal, whose two goals sparked the epic rally against Boston on Monday, “we don’t deserve anything better than what we got today.”


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