The second half of the season is looking much brighter for the New York Rangers. Mired in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference standings for much of the season's first 41 games, the Rangers are finally showing some life.
John MacLean scored twice and added an assist yesterday in New York's 6-3 victory over the visiting Atlanta Thrashers. The win, the Rangers' fourth in five games, came one day after they beat the New York Islanders. The Thrashers and Islanders are the NHL's two worst teams.
With 42 points, the Rangers are tied with Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot. New York plays Carolina at home Tuesday night.
"It's the second half and we have to make some hay and move up in the standings," MacLean said. "Each game is bigger than the next."
Rookie Michael York had his first goal in six games, then set up Adam Graves's power-play goal late in the first that gave New York a 4-1 lead. MacLean scored his eighth and ninth goals for his second two-goal game of the season and 57th of his career.
The Rangers scored three times in the first 6 minutes 41 seconds and coasted the rest of the way.
"Both games, the early lead goes a long way," said center Petr Nedved, who assisted on all three of Hlavac's goals the past two games.
RED WINGS 3, OILERS 3: In Edmonton, the Red Wings and Oilers skated to a tie. Detroit's Steve Yzerman scored career goal No. 613 in the first period, tying him with Mario Lemieux for seventh all-time. The Oilers' Ethan Moreau scored twice to rally Edmonton, and teammate Jim Dowd scored in the third period to forge the tie.