Rangers Rumors & News
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For the third game in a row, the Rangers best period was the third. And for the third game in a row, it had to be. They keep things close for the first two periods and turn it on at the end. And the catalyst yet again was Nikolai Zherdev. He showcased his skills while leading the team to a 3-2 win over Atlanta (and yes, the Thrashers again lead the league in worst uniform/name combination).

With the game tied at one in the third and the Rangers on the power play, Zherdev jumped on a loose puck, dipsy-doodled his way to the crease and backhanded the puck into the top corner of the net to give New York the lead. It was a thing of beauty. After Atlanta tied it up, Zherdev was at it again when he swept behind the net with the puck, eluding a defenseman like a sane person running away from Gary Busey, zipped it through the crease and Dan Girardi put it home for the game-winner. In the second period, the 23-year-old right winger chased down a breaking-away Todd White, dove and knocked the puck away with his stick, all without committing a penalty. It was the perfect defensive play. He was also conspicuous in a bad way. After Girardi’s goal, he was whistled for a penalty on the subsequent faceoff – before the puck was even dropped. But later, he drew a penalty to make up for it. It was an eventful third period for him. He’s tied for the team lead in points with Brandon Dubinsky with 12 (five goals, seven assists) and is plus-11. That trade is looking like a steal for Glen Sather. The kid has a world of talent, and when he plays hard, he can be the best player on the ice. The question is: can he keep it up?

The Rangers aren’t perfect. They make a lot of mistakes. They have trouble on the power play. Their goalie has to bail them out. But they keep on winning. In fact, they now have the best start in New York Rangers history. 10-2-1 is a pretty nice month. The Gomez/Callahan/Dawes line started the game flying, but it was the Thrashers who scored first. The resurgent Markus Naslund (five-game point streak) tied the game later in the period, and it stayed that way until Zherdev’s heroics in the third. Henrik Lunqvist made 27 saves, and has now allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his 11 games. And the Rangers aren’t exactly impeccable in their own end. If Lundqvist weren’t on top of his game to start the year, the Rangers would probably be hovering around .500.

It’s a tale of two special teams for the Blueshirts. Though they’ve scored a power play goal in their last five games, when they’re on the man advantage, they’re just not clicking. And if an opposing team wants to keep the Rangers from scoring? Just give them a five-on-three. They blew another one last night, when they skated around the outside and couldn’t get any quality shots off. Their penalty kill, on the other hand, is second in the league. They were three for four in last night’s game, with the only hiccup resulting from a brain cramp by Dmitri Kalinin. He left Bryan Little alone in front of the net to play the puck in the corner. Result? Wide open man in front. Power play goal.

Random Notes: Naslund had a goal disallowed in the second when he kicked the puck into the net…Paul Mara had two assists, and we learned he likes to whistle and talk a lot when he plays. How good does that trade for him look now?…Colton Orr got into a loooong fight with Eric Boulton. It was just like the good old days…Whatever happened to Aaron Voros? Remember him?… Lauri Korpikoski was sent down to Hartford so he can actually get into a game…Brendan Shanahan has officially given up hope that he’ll sign with the Rangers and will look to hook up with another team…And the Hugh Jessiman era is over. The 12th overall pick in the 2003 draft was shipped to Nashville for future considerations (most likely a couple of bags of Funyuns). He’s the only one of the top 30 players drafted that year not to have played in at least one NHL game. Hugh, we hardly knew ya. A draft pick is a terrible thing to waste.

Next game: Saturday night in Toronto.

Bag-O’-Knuckles-O-Meter

Colton Orr: 3

Paul Mara: 2

Aaron Voros: 2

Ryan Callahan: 1

Brandon Dubinsky: 1

Marc Staal: 1

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