It took a shootout, but the Rangers survived the Atlanta Thrashers last night. Following the hour and a half long ceremony, the Rangers came out flat and unimpressive. They managed to get out of the first period with a 0-0 tie, but 45 second into the second period Marion Hossa made it 1-0 on a soft goal let in by Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers slowly picked up their game and about halfway through the third period, Michal Rozsival was able to capitalize on a nice passing play by the third line, mainly Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes. The score remained tied up through the rest of the third and all of overtime, even with the Rangers controlling much of the play. Brendan Shanahan converted the only shootout attempt and Lundqvist made two saves before Hossa missed the net on the final shot, giving the Rangers a 2-1 win.
While it was disappointing to see the Rangers come out unmotivated in a Garden just waiting to explode, it was good to see them slowly improve their play. A team better than the Thrashers, however, would have made the Rangers pay for coming out so slowly. A team like Ottawa, Detroit or even the Devils or Islanders may have been able to pop two or three goals in and bury the Rangers. The Rangers survived though, and will be able to take the next four days to rest up and prepare for Carolina next Tuesday.
One thing that did look evident last night was that there seemed to be some decent chemistry up and down the lineup. The defense was pretty good, the top line looks pretty decent with Sean Avery taking Marty Straka's place and Dubinsky and Dawes continue to impress. Chris Drury is starting to get more opportunities as well, which is good news for the Rangers.
On the Marek Malik front, word is that he refused to shake the hand of Tom Renney after being told that he would be a scratch last night. Renney took it personally and sent Malik out of the building for the night. He said that Malik's matter would be handled internally, and that big number 8 is still on the roster.
You have to wonder if the Rangers can pull anything off to get Malik someplace where he would be happier. Maybe packaging him with a kid could net us something. Artem Anisimov has been playing well, and could be a good NHL centerman. Problem is, we have Scott Gomez, Drury, Dubinsky and Blair Betts on our lines. Avery, Petr Prucha, Straka and Ryan Hollweg also all have experience at center, and we have some other good young players in the system. Maybe he could make a deal a little sweeter and Malik can be off our hands. It wouldn't be the end of the world for us, even if he pulls a Marc Savard and starts recording 96 points a season for a team that finishes last in their division.
I'll keep everyone informed about any Ranger happenings over the break and I'll weigh in with some All-Star stuff as I'll almost certainly be checking out the game. Enjoy the break.