After a dominating effort last night versus the Stars, the Rangers came back with an uneven performance and wasted an impressive debut by Chad Johnson while losing to the Thrashers in Atlanta by the score of 2-1 in a shootout.
The Rangers, who allowed almost no odd man rushes last night, were victimized over and over again by the aggressive and speedy Thrashers squad but were kept in the game by Chad Johnson. Johnson, making his first career NHL start, showed incredible poise and made some terrific saves throughout the contest. The Rangers finally solved perennial thorn-in their-side Johan Hedberg when Enver Lisin took a perfect pass from Marc Staal and deflected it past the netminder (his first goal in 11 games) to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. They would keep that lead until midway through the third period when the Thrashers used another odd man opportunity to break through against Johnson. Both teams would have their chances in overtime but neither could finish. In the shootout, Johnson would stop all world sniper Illya Kovalchuk to give his team a chance to pull out the victory and things looked good for the Blueshirts after Marian Gaborik beat Hedberg for his first shootout goal in 4 attempts this season. Unfortunately, the next two Rangers shooters (Michael Del Zotto in the shootout?) couldn’t find the net and the Thrashers’ Bryan Little would seal the victory for the home team which had lost it’s prior 9 games before tonight.
Thumbs Up- Brian Boyle had another strong outing effort wise and continued to show some grit. Erik Christensen had a nice performance with a few very good scoring chances. Dan Girardi played well and Wade Redden showed some spurts of energy throughout. Ryan Callahan was excellent on the penalty kill. Michal Roszival gave the team some good minutes and played a good physical game.
Thumbs Down- Brashear, once again, was a non factor. Ales Kotalik took a bad penalty late and really didn’t do much in either zone. Sean Avery, who has been criticized by John Tortorella for inconsistent efforts, followed up his best game of the season with another ho-hum performance where he couldn’t seem to find the edge or intensity which carried him (and this team) vs. Dallas.
Three Stars- 3- Chris Drury- Drury showed incredible toughness tonight while blocking so many big shots throughout this game. His work with Callahan on the penalty kill was flawless and his positioning was perfect. The Rangers need more games like this from their Captain and it looks like Drury is ready to give his all for his club every night.
2- Marc Staal- Tonight was the kind of performance the Rangers expect to become commonplace for the young defenseman. He was strong on the boards, cleared out the front for Chad Johnson, hit everything he saw and most importantly locked down Kovalchuk anytime he moved across the Rangers’ blueline. Add to his stellar defensive game the great pass to Enver Lisin that led to the Rangers’ goal and you have Staal’s best game this year so far.
1- Chad Johnson- The Rangers have been looking for a backup goalie since Stephen Valiquette self destructed early on and now it’s safe to say they have found their man. Johnson showed great positioning and agility in keeping the Thrashers off the scoresheet for two and a half periods (some help from Callahan in the second period helped as well) and was impressive while stoning Kovalchuk during the shootout. Johnson deserved a better result (and a better effort from his teammates) in his first game but should be proud of himself after a very strong debut.
The Rangers will try to get back on the winning track against the Bruins on Saturday afternoon in Boston.