If the New York Rangers weren't looking over their shoulders in the standings before Friday night's game, then maybe Feb. 11 -- with 25 games remaining -- should officially mark that date. The Rangers dropped their sixth consecutive game with a 3-2 loss against an Atlanta Thrashers team that had just two wins in their past 13 games before tonight.
This is a game that the Rangers had to win, but instead just like the past seven of eight games, the Rangers fell behind in the first period, 1-0 -- this time on a goal by Anthony Stewart. To make matters worse, the Blueshirts grabbed a 2-1 lead -- the first time since Feb. 11 -- early in the third period on Brandon Dubinsky's 19th goal, only to see it come crashing down, just as their playoff hopes seem to be at this moment.
The power play, which had been a complete and utter abomination over the past month or so, was better. It created chances, there was puck movement and there was some excitement. The Rangers had three power-play opportunities, and they actually scored on one of them -- when Marc Staal scored 26 seconds into the second period on a rebound off of a Marian Gaborik shot on Ondrej Pavelec. It was Staal's first goal in 24 games and it tied the score at 1 apiece.
Despite the goal, the second period was an uneven one for the Rangers, as without two penalty kills of their own their hopes for a win would've been lost much sooner. The Thrashers power play was buzzing in the second, especially their first (of two in the period) after Derek Stepan took a holding penalty.
Gaborik was better this game -- he managed two assists -- but the momentum turner came after he was pulled down on a breakaway during a penalty-kill effort in the third period and failed to net the penalty shot goal. Regardless of not scoring on the penalty shot, Gaborik is paid to score goals and has just one in the past nine games. Evander Kane would score twice in the third period after that point, the second coming after a bad tripping penalty by Michael Del Zotto, and the Rangers' hopes for a crucial win essentially ended.
The Rangers now hold onto the seventh spot in the East by two points over Atlanta, as this losing streak is beginning to slowly damage the feel-good vibes from the first half of the season. After another Devils win tonight, the Rangers' rivals from New Jersey now are just 14 points behind them in the standings.