With the playoffs hanging on by a thread, the New York Rangers came out with little intensity and lost a game they needed to win to the visiting Atlanta Thrashers 3–0 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella spoke with MSG after the game, "We were flat. We didn't have many guys make plays tonight, offensively and defensively."
This game came down to a hard playing team in Atlanta with nothing to lose, and a tight team in the Rangers unable to put enough pucks on net.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi talked about the effort, "We were a step behind, getting late to pucks, now we have to watch what happens around the league and win our last game.
"In the Boston [Bruins] game we were playing with passion. Tonight, we were below effort. There’s no excuse for this. We have to go back to work. We have to be mentally strong and whatever happens, happens."
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was more succinct in his comments, "I hope we don’t sit here in a week and think about this game."
Missing in action was team leader Ryan Callahan who broke his leg on Monday night against the Bruins. Callahan's presence was most likely sorely missed but that cannot be used as an excuse for the lackluster effort given by the Blueshirts.
Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec played strong for Atlanta, shutting down the Rangers with 29 saves.
The Rangers (43–33–5) now sit in eighth-place with 91 points and need help to get into the playoffs. The road won't be an easy one though as they face a dangerous New Jersey Devils team (37–38–5) visiting the Garden on Saturday afternoon.
The Devils might be out of the playoffs but that won't stop them from wanting to play the role of spoiler and send the Rangers home for good—if the Rangers lose that game, they are finished.
After an uninspiring and scoreless first period, the Thrashers got the first score of the game at 7:42 in the second period as former NY Islander center Rob Schremp ripped a shot from the left side of the net that beat Lundqvist.
The home crowd got increasingly restless seconds later as the Thrashers' Andrew Ladd broke on through the Rangers defense and put the puck past Lundqvist at 7:57, giving Atlanta a 2—0 lead after back-to-back goals.
The Thrashers scored again at 4:19 in the third period after winger Eric Boulton put a shot on goal that deflected into the net and increased his team's lead by three.
The game would end by that score.
After it was over, Coach Torts summed the situation, "We laid an egg, but I know this team will be ready to play against New Jersey. We have to win our next game."
Center Brian Boyle added, "We had control of our destiny and now it’s up in the air. We have to come out and get ready for New Jersey. We’re going to have to answer the bell."