ATLANTA---All the Rangers had to do protect a one goal lead for six minutes 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 a 2-1 lead and send the Blueshirts to their sixth straight loss---the worst streak since 2006---with a 3-2 win.
They are now in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of the Thrashers and three ahead of Carolina in ninth with 25 games to play.
“They were pretty good at crashing the net and getting second and third opportunities,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who had 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.”
With the Rangers ahead 2-1 in the third on Brandon Dubinsky’s goal, Marian Gaborik, who had assists on both goals, had an opportunity to put the Rangers two up on a shorthanded penalty shot, when 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. “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.”
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,” said Tortorella. “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 Blueshirts a lead for the first time in 255:35. But the end result was a six-game losing streak, the longest since they dropped seven straight from Dec. 16 to 29, 2006.
Trailing 1-0 and with Anthony Stewart in the box at 17 seconds of the second period for holding Marc Staal, the Rangers scored on their first power play in 15 tries. Pavelec dove to stop Gaborik's wrister but Staal had the putback at 26 seconds.
For the fourth consecutive 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.