Thrashers rally to defeat Rangers in shootout

ATLANTA (AP) — Even with so much on the line for the New York
Rangers, Ilya Kovalchuk would not let the Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers, who are now playing only for pride, rallied from
a three-goal deficit behind Kovalchuk. Todd White then scored
the only goal in the shootout to give Atlanta a 5-4 victory over
the Rangers on Thursday night.

The Rangers led 4-1 late in the second period.

“Where is our killer instinct when we’re playing someone lower
in the standings?” asked Rangers backup Steve Valiquette, who
stopped shootout shots by Bryan Little, Slava Kozlov, Kovalchuk,
Eric Perrin and Rich Peverley before White flipped the puck past
his glove.

After the Rangers built the big lead, Kovalchuk had a hand in
each of the next three goals.

Kovalchuk scored late in the second period and assisted on
third-period goals by Colby Armstrong and White as Atlanta tied
it with 6:50 remaining in regulation.

The Rangers are one point behind sixth-place Pittsburgh in the
Eastern Conference playoff race. New York will travel to face
the Penguins on Saturday.

“We have to stay up, of course, because we have a big game
coming up in a couple of days,” Valiquette said. “Nobody wants
to get too down and too negative, but tonight wasn’t exactly a
forward performance for us.”

The Thrashers, already eliminated from playoff contention, have
won eight of 11.

“We need to play for our fans right now,” Kovalchuk said. “We
want to be better and make sure the fans have a good time.”

Atlanta improved to 7-1 in shootouts.

“To hang in there and hang in there and hang around and not quit
in the third … we haven’t got a lot to play for, but I think
we owe our fans and even ourselves a solid effort no matter what
happens,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “And that’s what
happened. We went out and played as hard as we could and got a
couple of goals.”

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Johan Hedberg, who replaced injured starter Kari Lehtonen
earlier in the game, denied Markus Naslund, Nik Antropov, Chris
Drury, Ryan Callahan, Fredrik Sjostrom and Scott Gomez in the

“I think we are fortunate enough to get a point, and we were
very fortunate to get that,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

Kovalchuk, chosen as Thrashers captain this season, scored with
20.6 seconds remaining in the second period to start the

“To give one up on the road with under a minute left in the
period is a killer,” said Rangers captain Chris Drury, who had a
goal and two assists. “That’s not why we lost, but it certainly
changed things in their locker room going into the third.”

The Rangers appeared on their way to a win when they took
advantage of long-awaited success on the power play and grabbed
the lead in the second period.

New York, 29th in the NHL with a 14.1 percent power-play success
rate, broke a 1-1 tie with man-advantage goals by Antropov and
Drury within a span of 1:30 midway through the period. Naslund
added another second-period goal for the 4-1 lead.

Drury’s shot from the right wing came on Valiquette’s first
career assist. Drury added two assists, and Nikolai Zherdev also
scored for the Rangers.

Valiquette stopped 26 shots, but couldn’t hold the big lead.
Kozlov tied it 1-1 for the Thrashers early in the second period.

Lehtonen sustained an undisclosed upper body injury and left
after the first period. Hedberg made 14 saves before his perfect
shootout performance.

“It’s been a rough year for us, but later in this season things
have been going in the right direction,” Hedberg said. “Going
into next year, we want to have some momentum.”

Drury had a first-period goal disallowed following a long video
review that determined that his stick was above the crossbar
when he knocked the puck past Lehtonen.