The Rangers won their fourth straight game last night, 3-2 over the struggling Atlantic Thrashers, to improve their league-leading record to 10-2-1 and set a franchiserecord for best start ever. Once again, it was not as easy as it should have been against the second-worst team in the league, with the power play coming up empty except for one individual effort by Nikolai Zherdev and Henrik Lundqvist having to make a number of saves to give the Rangers a chance to win. But the Rangers nevertheless made it a perfect 6-0 against teams in the bottom third of the standings.
The biggest hero of the game, for the third time in four games, was Zherdev, who scored a third period go-ahead goal and made the play to set up the game winner, and who opened eyes -- popped them, in fact -- with a diving backchecking play to break up a breakaway. Everyone was talking "Z" after the game -- Lundqvist, Drury, Renney, Kalinin, Dan Fritsche, and of course Zherdev himself, as best he could -- and we have it all at Blueshirt Bulletin+. Click here to read it if you subscribe to Blueshirt Bulletin and have registered for BB+ access. If you need instructions on how to access BB+, write to us at Blueshirt@mindspring.com. If you are not a subscriber, E-mail us or click here to learn how to take out a subscription to get the magazine as well as BB+.
Game reports centering mostly on Zherdev can be found in Newsday, the Journal News, Record, Times, Post, Daily News, NY Sports Day here and here, NYR.com, AJC, and AP. It would not be immodest to say that none of these reports has quotes as extensive as those as BB+, and no one else talked to Fritsche as we did about the difference in Zherdev between Columbus and New York. Game and team notes, primarily on the trade of Hugh Jessiman to Nashville, can be found in Newsday, the Record, Post, and Inside Shots. More on Jessiman from the Darien Times. See also the reporters' blogs -- Rangers Report here and here, Ranger Rants here and here, Slap Shot, and Game On!.
The lines that ended the game last night, with Zherdev reunited with Dubinsky and Voros while Fritsche moved to Drury's line with Naslund, were those used in practice today, according to Rangers Report and Ranger Rants. Scott Gomez was given the day off, and Steve Valiquette was named the starter tomorrow night in Toronto. There was an epic fight early in the game between Colton Orr and Eric Boulton -- see it here. Prospect Park goes gaga for Evgeny Grachev's goal just seven seconds into his game last night. The Checkers bring a 4-2 start to their home opener tonight -- Lyon Messier was re-signed after Tysen Dowzak was returned to his junior team by the Rangers.