Before the wrap, one thought: Maybe the coach will stick with these lines against the Isles.
Even the return of Brandon Dubinsky wasn’t enough to secure the Rangers two points. Or more than two goals.
“He gave us some juice, didn’t he?,” asked coach John Tortorella.
Sure. But the 23-year-old center, who had missed 13 games with a broken right hand and logged 24:06 of ice time, couldn’t help the Rangers avoid a fourth consecutive loss, a 3-2 shootout defeat to the Thrashers at Madison Square Garden. It did take an outstanding performance by goaltender Johan Hedberg to derail the Rangers, who fired a season-high 48 shots on goal---and scored twice on power plays.
“If we had only 20 shots, it’d be worrisome,” said Dubinsky, who reported no problems with his stamina or his right hand, which was covered by a plastic casing. “But it’s (a win) gotta come soon.” The question is, when?
For the 16th time in 20 games, the Rangers (14-15-3) scored two or fewer goals, but it was not for lack of effort.
“We really stressed crashing the net, getting pucks at the net and getting rebounds,” said Ryan Callahan, who scored his third goal in five games and had five shots and six hits on a new line with Vinny Prospal (six shots) and Chris Drury, who won 16 of 26 faceoffs.
“You look at the other night (against Buffalo)” said coach John Tortorella, “we have 38, 39 shots and we certainly didn’t develop as many chances as we did tonight. I think that’s from going to the net...We bounced back after a shorthanded goal. I have no complaints.”
If Tortorella could rethink last that statement, he might have faulted his club for the second shorthander surrendered in two games, a tally that prompted his shouted expletive from the bench. Or critiqued Ales Kotalik, who lost the puck and didn’t get a shot off in the second round of the shootout with the Rangers behind 1-0 on a highlight reel score by Ilya Kovalchuk, who deked Lundqvist to his stomach and roofed a shot from outside the right post. Slava Kozlov’s wrister then sealed the victory.
“I think everybody is mad,” said Lundqvist, who made 25 saves and will start against the Islanders in the first game of a home-and-home here on Wednesday. “The only thing you can do is try to use it as energy coming into the (next) game.”
There were certainly other pluses among the frustration:
Marian Gaborik, who played 28:19, scored his league-leading 23rd goal and 11th on the power play in the third period, just 59 seconds after Colby Armstrong scored shorthanded, taking the puck off a long, dump-in that curled around the end boards and beating Lundqvist for a 2-1 lead at the 3:06 mark.
Michael Del Zotto recorded two assists, one on a brilliant goal-line to opposing blue line pass to Callahan, who scored his seventh of the season at 17:10 of the first period to knot the game at 1. “You have to give the kid some credit, how he sees the plays,” said Tortorella. “What’s impressive about him is that he’s so decisive.” After a 1-for-16 stretch, the Rangers have four power plays goals in the last two games.
And with the score tied at 2, the Rangers earned a point by surviving a 5-on-3 for 1:26 deep in the third, when Dan Girardi flipped a clearing pass into the seats at 14:37. “That is a big reason we end up getting a point,” said Tortorella. “In all facets of the game, there are some things we can build on.”