It was too good to be true. Marek Malik was going to sit as Paul Mara returned to the lineup. That was about as good as it was going to get. Yes, the Rangers came back with two straight goals, the first by Marcel Hossa and Chris Drury's seventh, to give them a brief 2-1 lead and then the tying goal by Dupuis and finally the winner by Kozlov past backup Steve Valiquette who started for Lundqvist. Marian Hossa, quiet all night, scored an empty netter to close out the game.
Valiquette, making 18 saves, did not play badly, but should have had Kozlov's game winner. However, he was not to blame for the loss as the Rangers offense, except for the first period spurt, was non existent. The top line was the chief culprit. They were on the ice for Atlanta's second and third goals and put very little pressure on Atlanta's goalie Johan Hedberg who is now 8-3-0 against the Rangers. Jagr continued his slide with only two shots on goal and Straka had none and over passed on numerous occasions. But Lazarus arose from the dead and maybe so will Jagr. The second and third line had some good spurts and the Drury, Prucha, Callahan line was quite aggressive. Each of these two lines had a goal as Hossa was paired with Gomez and Shanahan.
Now it is the red hot New Jersey Devils, winners of nine straight, in the Garden Sunday, and it could get ugly both on the ice and in the stands. The Rangers have lost three straight and while sitting Malik was a good move, coach clueless must come up with some kind of plan how to turn this rudderless ship around. The Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Devils, including a shootout win, but that was before Sutter shook up the Devils. Patrik Elias is no longer the captain. What a novel thought, removing the C from an underachieving captain. Coach clueless doesn't have the guts to make such a move. Did I tell you that Pat Burns is looking to get back to coaching in the NHL?
Of course the other reason the Rangers have swept the Devils is Henrik Lundqvist. Right now this is a much different Lundqvist who has given up eight goals in his last five periods. His GAA is 2.02, the first time all year he is above 2.0. Look for Lundqvist to be back in the nets Sunday night and the first period will be critical for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 2 points behind the Devils and sinking fast. But if the Rangers goal scoring funk continues it may not matter how good Lundqvist plays.
ICINGS: Chris Drury scored the 200th goal of his NHL career and has picked up his game.
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