NEW YORK, N.Y. – Only one thought went through Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay’s mind when the New York Rangers’ cut a three-goal deficit to one in the third period.
“Uh-oh,” Ramsay said.
No need to worry. Atlanta buckled down over the final 10 minutes and beat the Rangers 6-4 on Wednesday night to break their three-game losing streak and snap New York’s winning run at three.
“I was really thrilled with the talk on the bench,” Ramsay said. “It was all positive.”
Niclas Bergfors had a goal and an assist and six Thrashers scored. Atlanta built its lead to 5-2 early in the third before the Rangers surged.
Bergfors gave Atlanta a 3-2 advantage in the second and assisted on Dustin Byfuglien’s power-play goal in the third that stretched the edge to three. Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Eric Boulton and Andrew Ladd also scored to back the goaltending of Chris Mason, who made 24 saves.
Bergfors, Little and Boulton all scored for the first time this season.
“It’s always a relief,” Bergfors said. “The first goal always gives you confidence.”
Ryan Callahan, Sean Avery, Todd White and Brian Boyle had goals for the Rangers, who started backup goalie Martin Biron over Henrik Lundqvist for the second time this season. Biron allowed only one goal on 25 shots in a win at Toronto on Oct. 21, but was touched for five goals on 25 Thrashers shots.
White, with his first goal with the Rangers, and Boyle scored 2:11 apart to bring New York to 5-4 with 9:53 remaining. Defenceman Matt Gilroy nearly tied it with 6:45 left when his shot from the left point hit Mason’s glove and then the crossbar.
“We lost and we deserved to lose,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We shouldn’t put ourselves in that type of spot. We didn’t stay within ourselves and play the way we needed to. We shouldn’t have let it get out of hand.”
Ladd’s empty-netter sealed it with 23.2 seconds to go.
“It was kind of stupid to let them back in the game,” Bergfors said. “We stopped working a little bit there and they took care of it, but we got it done.”
The Rangers came out flying and seemed determined to take the fight out of the Thrashers. New York grabbed a 1-0 lead just 38 seconds in when Callahan scored his second goal.
Despite pockets of empty seats throughout Madison Square Garden, the crowd was into the game as the Rangers pressured Mason. New York held a 7-1 shots advantage through the first 4:46, but then had its offence run dry.
Atlanta got even with 8:32 left in the first when Little scored off a pretty rush through the Rangers. Little surged into the middle of the zone, cut to his right and got around sprawling defenceman Marc Staal, and then moved to the front of the net. Little beat Biron with a slick forehand-to-backhand move to tie it at 1-1.
“Wow, we are fun to watch,” Ramsay said.
The Thrashers outshot the Rangers 11-3 over the final 15-plus minutes of the period. Atlanta earned the only power plays of the first, getting them back-to-back late in the frame for a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 51 seconds.
New York killed off the first half before the period ended and finished off the power play in the opening minute of the second. The Rangers couldn’t build off that momentum.
Kane gave the Thrashers their first lead when he snapped a shot from the outside edge of the right circle at 10:17 of the second. Kane, the No. 4 pick in the 2009 draft, is off to a sizzling start in his second NHL season, scoring six goals in nine games.
Tortorella burned his timeout as Kane retrieved the puck for 19-year-old rookie teammate Alex Burmistrov, who assisted for his first NHL point.
The breather seemed to help the Rangers as they tied the game just 2:31 later when Avery turned hard work behind the Atlanta net into a stuff-in goal at the right post.
But New York couldn’t sustain it, even after receiving its only power play less than a minute after Avery’s goal. The Thrashers soon went on top again.
After a turnover in the Rangers’ end, Bergfors raced the puck up right wing on a 2-on-1 rush. With New York defenceman Michal Rozsival cutting off the passing lane, Bergfors fired a shot over Biron’s shoulder to make it 3-2 with 3:53 left in the second period.
Atlanta’s lead grew to two 49 seconds into the third when Boulton scored his first of the season with a backhander from the slot. Byfuglien made it 5-2 at 5:01.
“There were a couple of times where I could have made that big save that would have probably kept it tight,” Biron said.
NOTES: Rangers C Artem Anisimov injured his right ankle while blocking a shot in the second period. He will have an MRI on Thursday. Rozsival hyperextended a knee, but Tortorella doesn’t believe that injury is serious. … Ladd, who had a goal and an assist, tied his career high with a six-game point streak (3 goals, 7 assists). … The Rangers haven’t won four straight since Dec. 17-23, 2009.