Thursday, April 12th 2007
Hollweg - Healthy
Isbister - Healthy
Ozolinsh - Injured (IR)
Rachunek - Injured (IR)
Strudwick - Ineligible for playoffs
Weekes - Injured
The Rangers have opened up their postseason with an
important 4-3, confidence boosting win on the road against the Atlanta
Thrashers. Michael Nylander's goal at 16:50 of the second period
ultimately proved to be the game winner, and allowed the visitors to weather a
third period comeback bid, and a penalty to defensemen Thomas Pock with just
1:10 remaining in regulation. The Blueshirt faithful then had to survive a
post by Ilya Kovalchuk from a sharp angle with just 1.2 seconds remaining,
before they could release a collective sigh of relief.
Much of the scoring in the game could perhaps be
attributed to nerves, with Rangers rookie defensemen Thomas Pock and Dan Girardi
both making key mistakes that contributed to goals, and Kari Lehtonen looking
unsettled in his NHL post-season debut. To be fair neither goaltender
looked completely settled, but the Rangers made the most of their chances, and
dominated the offensive zone for much of the game, establishing two goal leads
on three separate occasions. And for once, the dreaded two goal
lead proved to be a bonus rather than a curse.
New York got off to a fine start in the game when
Jaromir Jagr converted on a one-timer mid-way through the first period, beating
a moving Lehtonen high to the stick side from the face-off circle. Jagr's
68th post-season goal seemed to help settle the Rangers, who extended their lead
less than four minutes later with Michal Rozsival converting on the power play.
It appeared as if the visitors would go into the break with a two nothing lead,
but a penalty mistakenly attributed to Rozsival (it should have been called on
Malik) allowed Eric Belanger to redirect a shot from defenseman Niclas Havelid
back towards the goal and by Henrik Lundqvist.
Marcel Hossa re-established the Rangers two goal
lead in the second, but later appeared to aggravate his knee injury. Hossa
had missed the previous sixteen games with a sprained MCL, and one wonders
whether he could be in doubt for the remainder of the playoffs. It looked
at that point as if the Rangers might run away with the game with the Rangers
peppering the Thrashers netminder with shots, but once again the home team
responded. The Thrashers, playing with an extra man on a delayed penalty,
worked the puck in the Rangers zone, culminating in a shot from the point off of
Shane Hnidy's stick, that found it's way through traffic and by Henrik
Atlanta's netminder then gave the Rangers back
the two goal lead, and ultimately the game when he mishandled a shot by Petr
Prucha, allowing Michael Nylander to beat two defenders to the loose puck for
the game winner. Dan Girardi's soft giveaway in the third gave the
Thrashers their third goal to former Ranger Pascal Dupuis, but in the end it
wasn't enough for the home team.
The teams will meet again on Saturday with the
Rangers looking to come up with a 2-0 series lead, and the Atlanta Thrashers
looking to regain some momentum and go to New York with at least a tie.
Tonight's game was both the first playoff game by the Atlanta Thrashers, and
their first playoff game at home. The last time Atlanta hosted an NHL
playoff game was twenty seven years ago to the day. The Rangers defeated
the Atlanta Flames 5-2 on April 12th, 1980 ending the Flames' eight year tenure
New York had not won a "Game 1" of a playoff
series since May 1st, 1994 when they beat the Washington Capitals 6-3 in the
Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Rangers would go on to win the series
4-0 and would go on to win the Stanley Cup. They also registered their
first playoff win since May 18th, 1997 when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers
5-4 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
NHL Playoff Debuts: Sean Avery, Ryan Callahan,
Dan Girardi and Thomas Pock. Valiquette also backed up in his first NHL
Ranger Playoff Debuts: Matt Cullen, Paul Mara and Brendan Shanahan all made
their first appearances for the Rangers in the playoffs. It was the first
playoff game for Paul Mara since 2002 when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Marcel Hossa returned after missing the last 16
games of the regulation, but appeared to re-injure his knee in the game.
No word yet on how bad the injury was.
New York became just the second team (along with San Jose) to win the first game
on the road in this year's playoffs.
With 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation Ilya Kovalchuk hits the post from a
wide angle. Yeah it was that close to going to OT.
WHO STOOD OUT:
Matt Cullen didn't appear on the score sheet, but skated well all night.
In fact the whole "RPM" line (Prucha, Callahan and Cullen) was possibly the best
line for the Rangers. Jagr and Nylander both featured prominently in the
play too, particularly in the first two periods, and Petr Prucha's work on the
game winner was key, though he missed an opportunity to put the Rangers back up
two goals in the third.
Thomas Pock had a rough debut on the blueline, and Dan Girardi turned the puck
over for Pascal Dupuis's goal that pulled the Thrashers back within one goal.
Brendan Shanahan was relatively quiet all game.