ATLANTA – The Atlanta Thrashers and 36-year-old goalie Johan Hedberg needed a shootout to outlast the New York Rangers and youngster Chad Johnson.
Bryan Little scored in the fifth round of the shootout and help the Thrashers snap a nine-game losing streak, 2-1 over the Rangers on Thursday night. The Thrashers earned their first win since Dec. 17 in their return from an 0-5-2 road trip.
“What I did today was put my red slippers on and click my heels three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home,”‘ Thrashers coach John Anderson said.
The Thrashers avoided their first 10-game skid since their inaugural season 10 years ago.
“Hopefully, this can turn things around for us and get us back on the winning side of things,” Little said.
The 23-year-old Johnson, making his first NHL start, almost spoiled the homecoming. He shut out the Thrashers through two periods. Johnson, subbing for workhorse starter Henrik Lundqvist, stopped 31 shots. He allowed Jim Slater’s third-period goal that forced overtime.
“It’s disappointing not getting the two points,” said Johnson, who added that he played a solid game. “The first five minutes I was a little nervous, but I settled down.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella didn’t notice any jitters from the bench.
“He was solid,” Tortorella said. “He made some great saves without any type of panic in his game. He was there. The puck hit him and he looked very confident. That’s a very good sign for a guy starting his first game.”
Johnson also gave up a goal to Slava Kozlov in the shootout.
Enver Lisin gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second period.
Hedberg had 29 saves and gave up only Marian Gaborik’s goal in the extended shootout.
“I tried to make them make the first move,” said Hedberg, of New York’s overtime shooters. “I was a little lucky.”
Hedberg turned aside Eric Christensen, Ryan Callahan and Ales Kotalik before rookie defenceman Michael Del Zotto shot wide to end the shootout.
“We deserved this win,” Hedberg said. “We have been working for it for a long time now.”
Johnson stopped 17 of 20 shots in his NHL debut in relief of Lundqvist against Philadelphia on Dec. 30. The start against Atlanta was his second appearance.
Johnson earned an assist on Lisin’s goal.
“I barely touched it,” Johnson said.
The Thrashers improved to 3-0 against the Rangers this season and have won five straight in the series.
Lundqvist made his 17th straight start on Wednesday at home, when he beat the Dallas Stars 5-2. New York has recorded a point in 10 of 11 games (7-1-3).
“With the travel (Wednesday) night and the back-to-back games, I thought it was a hard-fought point,” Tortorella said.
The Thrashers have played 19 games since their last win in regulation, a victory over Florida on Nov. 30.
New York’s Sean Avery didn’t take long to find the penalty box. Avery and Atlanta’s Tobias Enstrom drew minors for roughing only 1:57 into the game.
Avery tied a career high with four points on Wednesday in his first game against the Stars, who dumped him last season.
NOTES: The Thrashers lost 10 straight from Feb. 25-March 16, 2000. … Thrashers G Kari Lehtonen, recovering from two back operations, has been pain-free while beginning individual workouts on the ice, according to general manager Don Waddell. Waddell said a rehab stint with AHL Chicago hasn’t been ruled out when Lehtonen is ready for competition, perhaps in a few weeks. … The Thrashers played their first home game since Dec. 21. … Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of his past 16 games.