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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

lose.

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."

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

tiebreaker.

"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

comeback.

"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.

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