"I don't think they really see me coming,'' Stefan said. "You can see the holes. They've got three or four guys back, but you can see almost all the guys go on that side because Dany is there. It's like that with Ilya, too.''
Heatley had three assists, and goaltender Byron Dafoe won his home debut for the Thrashers, who improved to 1-6-0 against New York in Atlanta.
Stefan, Heatley and Kovalchuk were all high draft picks from
1999-2001. Stefan, though, struggled through numerous injuries in
his first three seasons, bottoming out last Nov. 27 when he was
sent to the minors.
Heatley and Kovalchuk delivered on their promise, finishing 1-2 in the Calder Trophy voting and each scoring more goals in one season than Stefan had in three.
"It's been tough, but maybe it was something good to get me some experience,'' Stefan said. "I think I'm a little happier now that I've got the confidence of the coaches, too. They know I can play on our end and take care of my defensive zone.''
The Thrashers, who had lost five of six, got their first
short-handed goal of the season when McEachern stole the puck in
the neutral zone and raced down the right side to beat Rangers
goalie Dan Blackburn and close the scoring at 15:17 of the third
Stefan made it 5-4 with 13:50 remaining, beating Blackburn with
a hard wrist shot off a pass from Heatley. New York had just failed
to get off a shot on a three-on-one break.
Stefan gave Atlanta a 4-3 lead 18:13 into the second period.
Moving down the right side, Stefan edged past Brian Leetch to take
a pass from Heatley and beat Blackburn stick side.
"The mistakes that we were making got ourselves out of the game
by letting them score goals,'' Rangers coach Bryan Trottier said.
"We were close and then gave it away. It's just disappointing.''
New York's Pavel Bure scored just his second goal in 14 games to
make it 4-4 with a shot from the left circle only 42 seconds into
Herperger, who entered with one goal in 12 games, scored twice
in a 4:16 span of the second period. His second goal gave Atlanta
its first lead at 3-2 with a rebound from the left side of the
Herperger was at the right side of the crease when he tied it at
2 after taking Pascal Rheaume's pass from behind the net.
"Pascal made a great play in the corner to me, and on the
second Patrik drove the net and I got the rebound,'' Herperger
said. "It was pretty much an open net.''
The Rangers were aggressive in the early parts of each period.
Petr Nedved made it 1-0 just 1:34 into the first after Radek Dvorak
dropped a pass for him at the top of the right circle. Nedved fired
the puck past Dafoe, who signed with the Thrashers as a free agent
New York took a 2-1 lead at the 19-minute mark of the second
when Eric Lindros scored off a pass from Tom Poti.
"Tonight we went back to the way we were playing early in the
season,'' Poti said. "We can't have that. We took four or five
steps back in the wrong direction.''
Blackburn, coming off a 3-1 win Monday over Carolina, stopped
only 18 of 25 shots.
"We didn't play solid defense,'' Blackburn said. "We gave them lots of chances.''
Dafoe, who lost his Thrashers debut 3-2 Monday at Montreal, made
At the 4:17 mark of the second, Leetch made it 3-3 with a shot from the bottom of the left circle.
Kovalchuk tied it at 1 for Atlanta with a wrister 9:01 into the second.
Atlanta's first penalty came with 6:26 remaining, when Jeff
Cowan was called for hooking. ... Dvorak left with back spasms and
didn't return for the third period. ... New York was playing on
Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1973, when it won 3-1 at
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Philips Arena Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Referees: Brad Meier, Tim Peel Linesmen: Jonny Murray, Derek Nansen
Attendance: 17,252 (93.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Petr Nedved (9)
Assists: Radek Dvorak, Dale Purinton
Ilya Kovalchuk (12)
Assist: Dany Heatley
Eric Lindros (5)
Assists: Tom Poti, Rem Murray
Chris Herperger (2)
Assist: Pascal Rheaume
Chris Herperger (3)
Assists: Ilya Kovalchuk, Daniel Tjarnqvist
Brian Leetch (4)
Assists: Rico Fata, Tom Poti
Patrik Stefan (7)
Assists: Dany Heatley, Mike Weaver
Pavel Bure (9)
Assists: Rem Murray, Tom Poti
Patrik Stefan (8)
Assists: Dany Heatley, Mike Weaver
Shawn McEachern (8)
Assists: Tony Hrkac, Slava Kozlov