for this game

Cullen's goal gives Rangers sweep of Thrashers

Apr 19, 2007 - 4:43 AM
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Thanks to Matt Cullen, the New York Rangers made the Atlanta Thrashers' first postseason appearance a brief one.

Cullen snapped a tie 2:06 into the third period, leading the Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the Thrashers and a sweep of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Defenseman Michal Rozsival, Brendan Shanahan and captain Jaromir Jagr also scored for the sixth-seeded Rangers, who recorded their first playoff series sweep since eliminating the New York Islanders in four games in the 1994 conference quarterfinals. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup, ending a 53-year championship drought.

"I don't know if anybody goes into any series expecting to sweep," Shanahan said. "They're pretty rare. I don't think anybody ever says, 'We're going to sweep this series.'"

"We understand that we have a lot of work to do," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "I think that to a man, we're still on a business trip. We want to make this last as long as we possibly can for lots of reasons."

Coming off a 7-0 rout in Game Three on Tuesday, the Rangers fell behind just over 6 1/2 minutes into this one. But Rozsival knotted the contest just 79 seconds later, and Shanahan erased a 2-1 deficit late in the second period with his third goal of the postseason.

After receiving a long backhand pass from defenseman Thomas Pock early in the third, Cullen crossed the Thrashers blue line and unleashed a slap shot. The puck hit the crossbar and dropped just inside the net, but play continued as the referees did not signal a goal.

At the next stoppage, video replay officials examined the play. After a long delay, Cullen was awarded his first tally of the playoffs, giving the Rangers a 3-2 edge.

"I didn't think it was a goal," Cullen admitted. "I saw it hit the crossbar and then I lost sight of it. I was actually surprised they were reviewing it. I didn't expect it to be a goal. The longer it took, the more I knew we had a chance."

"If they called a goal, it's probably (right)," Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg said. "I trust them. That goal was a backbreaker, no doubt about it. That hurt."

Jagr sealed the win with an empty-netter and Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for the Rangers, who won their first playoff series since 1997.

"It's nice," Cullen said. "I don't care who gets the game-winning goal. It's just nice to be moving on. ... It's great to do it in front of our own fans. We've been playing some really good hockey, I feel, for a long time now and it's really nice to do it here."

"You can't really ask for a better series from the guys," Shanahan added. "It's always great to accomplish one of your goals. One of our goals is to beat our first opponent. We're happy with the way we played the series, but at the same time, we're keeping our head on our shoulders. We certainly don't feel like we've hit a finish line here."

Keith Tkachuk and defenseman Greg de Vries tallied for Atlanta, which qualified for the postseason for the first time since joining the NHL in 1999-2000.

"Right now, it's a lot of disappointment from this series that we had," Thrashers captain Scott Mellanby said. "But it's a great organization and classy people with (general manager) Don Waddell and ownership. It's nice to be a part of helping the team get to the playoffs the first time. ... Hopefully, it's a growing process for the organization."

"It's unfortunate because we feel as though we played three very tight games," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "Give credit to the Rangers. They played unbelievably well."

The Thrashers took their first lead of the series at 6:38 of the first period, when Ilya Kovalchuk carried the puck down the left wing and made a backhand pass to Tkachuk, who beat Lundqvist from the slot for his first goal of the playoffs.

"Unfortunately, they got the first goal, so they had a lot of energy from it," Lundqvist said. "We stuck to the game plan and we didn't panic."

New York drew even shortly thereafter during a power play, as Rozsival's one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle deflected off Marian Hossa's stick and past Hedberg at 7:57.

De Vries restored Atlanta's advantage with 7:34 to go in the second, blasting a one-timer by Lundqvist. Hossa, who led the Thrashers during the regular season with 100 points, notched his first of the series on the play with an assist.

Shanahan forged a 2-2 tie with 1:42 remaining in the session, firing a wrist shot past Hedberg during a 2-on-1 rush, and Cullen netted the series-clinching tally early in the third.

"It definitely took a lot out of us," de Vries said of Cullen's goal. "It's tough. That's what happens - you get the puck on the net and things like that can happen."

Jagr's insurance goal was the 69th of his postseason career, moving him ahead of Hall of Famer Gordie Howe for 16th place on the all-time list.

"You never know. You just want to finish the team when you can," Jagr said. "It can go either way. They win one game and they go home and they win at home, and they've got Game Six and Seven. ... The quicker, the better."








  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 1 1 0 2
    NY RANGERS 1 1 2 4 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - KEITH TKACHUK 1 (ILYA KOVALCHUK, NICLAS HAVELID) 6:38
    NYR - (PP) MICHAL ROZSIVAL 2 (MARTIN STRAKA, MICHAEL
    NYLANDER) 7:57
    2ND PRD: ATL - GREG DE VRIES 1 (PASCAL DUPUIS, MARIAN HOSSA) 12:26
    NYR - BREN

    Apr 18 9:47 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 2
    NY RANGERS 4
    3RD PRD: NYR - (EN) JAROMIR JAGR 2 (UNASSISTED) 18:27

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 9:44 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 2
    NY RANGERS 3
    3RD PRD: NYR - MATT CULLEN 1 (THOMAS POCK, RYAN CALLAHAN) 2:06

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 9:12 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 1 1 2
    NY RANGERS 1 1 2 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - KEITH TKACHUK 1 (ILYA KOVALCHUK, NICLAS HAVELID) 6:38
    NYR - (PP) MICHAL ROZSIVAL 2 (MARTIN STRAKA, MICHAEL
    NYLANDER) 7:57
    2ND PRD: ATL - GREG DE VRIES 1 (PASCAL DUPUIS, MARIAN HOSSA) 12:

    Apr 18 8:44 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 2
    NY RANGERS 2
    2ND PRD: NYR - BRENDAN SHANAHAN 3 (SEAN AVERY) 18:18

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 8:41 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 2
    NY RANGERS 1
    2ND PRD: ATL - GREG DE VRIES 1 (PASCAL DUPUIS, MARIAN HOSSA) 12:26

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 8:30 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 1 1
    NY RANGERS 1 1 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - KEITH TKACHUK 1 (ILYA KOVALCHUK, NICLAS HAVELID) 6:38
    NYR - (PP) MICHAL ROZSIVAL 2 (MARTIN STRAKA, MICHAEL
    NYLANDER) 7:57
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----


    Apr 18 7:48 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 1
    NY RANGERS 1
    1ST PRD: NYR - (PP) MICHAL ROZSIVAL 2 (MARTIN STRAKA, MICHAEL
    NYLANDER) 7:57

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 7:29 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL ATLANTA 1
    NY RANGERS 0
    1ST PRD: ATL - KEITH TKACHUK 1 (ILYA KOVALCHUK, NICLAS HAVELID) 6:38

    Thrashers vs. RangersApr 18 7:25 PM