Holik scores twice against his former team as Thrashers beat Rangers 5-4

The Thrashers blew a late lead for the second time in three games, but Bobby Holik and his old-school wooden sticks bailed Atlanta out this time in a 5-4 overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. “We’re getting pretty good at it, unfortunately,” Holik said.

The former Rangers forward scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, but that didn’t hold up as New York’s Michael Nylander tied it with a power-play goal with 2:30 left in regulation.

That sparked bad memories for the Thrashers, who let Tampa Bay get even in the final minute of regulation in an overtime loss on Friday, and nearly allowed Florida to tie it the next night when the Panthers had a 6-on-3 skating advantage at the end of a 1-0 victory.

“Eight seconds left, a 6-on-3,” said Holik, still shocked three days later. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”

Holik, who spent two largely disappointing seasons with the Rangers before the NHL lockout, gave the Thrashers their first lead of the night at 9:12 of the third period. He gleaned no extra delight in knocking off New York.

“I’m in the point of my career where I want to help this team to get into the playoffs,” said Holik, a two-time Stanley Cup champion. “That’s all I ever care about. If we win, that’s the satisfaction.”

Holik and Jim Slater scored 2:04 apart in the third period, and Marian Hossa broke out of a slump with a goal and three assists for the Thrashers, unbeaten in four games (3-0-1). Brad Larsen’s goal 2:17 into the second period tied it at 1.

The winner came when Holik rushed around defenceman Aaron Ward and banged a shot off goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. He grabbed his own rebound and popped it into the net.

“I do that move every warmup before the game,” the rugged Holik said. “I have been doing that for 10 years. That’s my play. What am I going to do, pick a corner?”

Adam Hall scored twice, and streaking Martin Straka added a goal for the Rangers, who dropped their second straight overtime decision following late, third-period rallies. New York has gone to overtime in three consecutive contests.

Kari Lehtonen shook off a soft first goal and followed up Saturday’s shutout performance with a 30-save effort.

Holik, who entered with only four goals this season, scored 41 during his uneventful time on Broadway. He left to a chorus of boos when his winner was announced to the departing crowd.

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The Rangers, beaten in overtime at home by Buffalo on Sunday, caught a few late breaks in this one to salvage a point.

“We just have to play better hockey when we are up,” Straka said. “We just have to keep coming. We can’t just sit back.”

After squandering a 3-1 lead, New York got even on Nylander’s power-play goal. The Rangers went on the advantage on Brad Larsen’s elbowing penalty with 4:43 remaining. It became a 5-on-3 power play when Vitaly Vishnevski flipped the puck over the glass a minute later.

Nylander redirected Straka’s pass in front with only 47 seconds left in the advantage to tie it at 4.

Atlanta nearly won it in regulation, but Steve Rucchin’s drive with 36.7 seconds left struck the crossbar and the post and stayed out.

That only slightly delayed the loss as the Thrashers, the surprising Southeast Division leaders, paid back New York for a 5-2 home loss earlier this month.

Holik gave Atlanta a 4-3 lead when he raced into the Rangers’ zone and fired a shot in from above the right circle. He celebrated by skating past the New York bench and showing off his wooden stick to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, who used to tease him for using them.

Slater tied it 3-3 with his first of the season.

Hossa, the Thrashers’ leading scorer, had gone four-plus games without a point before he netted his 17th goal to make it 3-2 with 1:47 left in the second period.

The Rangers otherwise dominated the period, scoring twice and holding a 21-8 shots advantage.

Just under five minutes after Larsen got Atlanta even with his fourth goal, Hall and Straka connected 1:59 apart to make it 3-1. It was Hall’s second two-goal game in the NHL and first since March 4, 2004.

Straka, who already scored 14 goals after netting only 22 last season, has five goals and four assists in a five-game point streak.

Notes: The Rangers recalled forward Ryan Callahan from Hartford of the AHL, but he wasn’t in the lineup. . . . Atlanta D Andy Sutton is out indefinitely after cracking a bone in his ankle during practice Monday.