Michael Nylander scored two goals, including one 15 seconds into the game, and added an assist Friday night to power the New York Rangers to a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. Jaromir Jagr had three assists and Matt Cullen added two more for the Rangers, who won for the fourth time in five games and ended Atlanta’s four-game winning streak.
“It’s huge to take a 1-0 lead right away,” Jagr said. “It always helps with the confidence.”
The Rangers got off to a quick start by scoring on two of their first three shots in front of Atlanta’s first sellout crowd (18,545) of the season.
First it was Nylander’s 15-footer past Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Jagr and Martin Straka earned assists on Nylander’s fifth goal.
“The first goal we gave up is indicative of the way we played the whole game,” said Thrashers centre Steve Rucchin. “We gave the goal up at the goal line and gave it up throughout the game.”
New York, tied for the lead in the Atlantic Division with New Jersey, made it 2-0 six minutes later on a power-play goal by Michal Rozsival, his second. Jagr and Nylander had assists as the Rangers scored on only their third shot.
The Rangers made it 3-0 with 5:32 left in the first period on Brendan Shanahan’s 13th goal.
“That’s the way we want to play with the lead – not taking chances. We were moving the puck more tonight, not getting fancy,” Shanahan said.
“I would say this is certainly one of our best efforts (of the season), if not the best. We seem to rise to the occasion against teams like this,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
Atlanta, which leads the Southeast Division, scored late in the period on a power play when Vyacheslav Kozlov connected on a long slap shot, beating New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 2:49 left.
New York made it 4-1 midway in the second period on a goal by Petr Prucha, his fifth. Matt Cullen, who assisted on Shanahan’s goal, added another assist.
“Right from the first shift, the Rangers were hungrier than us,” said Thrashers coach Bob Hartley. “We’re a better team than what we showed tonight.”
Ilya Kovalchuk, who assisted on Kozlov’s goal, knocked in his 14th on a power play at 14:07 of the second period, only 20 seconds after two Rangers were penalized and the Thrashers had a 5-on-3 advantage. Marian Hossa, who leads the league in scoring, assisted.
Nylander added his sixth goal on a power play at 8:55 of the third period with Jagr getting his third assist.
Notes: Nylander’s first-period goal was the quickest allowed by the Thrashers since they entered the league in 1999. On two occasions Atlanta had allowed a goal after 35 seconds. … Entering Friday’s games, Atlanta led the league in goals (69) and Hossa led the league in scoring with 28 points on 13 goals and 15 assists. Kovalchuk was next with 26 points (14-12) tied with Jagr (5-21). … The Rangers are 7-2 on the road.