NEW YORK (AP) - Rangers rookie Henrik Lundqvist gave up a goal in the third period, and the Madison Square Garden crowd rose to its feet and chanted his name.
This really is the new NHL.
Lundqvist made 28 saves to win for the second straight game and New York blistered Atlanta rookie Adam Berkhoel for three second-period goals in a 5-1 victory Saturday night over the Thrashers.
Lundqvist was sharp throughout and flirted with his first shutout in his third career game, filling in for the injured Kevin Weekes (groin). When Ilya Kovalchuk spoiled the bid, the appreciative fans - starving for the first team's playoff appearance since 1997 - showed appreciation for the Swedish goalie.
``It was loud back home, but this is New York,'' Lundqvist said. ``Only two games here and they're saying my name. I love this crowd already.''
Lundqvist earned his second NHL victory by following up on Thursday's 4-1 victory over New Jersey. He took time to acknowledge the cheers and chants with a wave.
Dispelling any chance of a brewing goalie controversy, Rangers coach Tom Renney stressed that Weekes is solidly the No. 1 goalie and that Lundqvist still has lots to learn in the NHL.
``You always want to be the No. 1 goalie,'' Lundqvist said. ``But there are so many games and it goes up and down so many times.''
Martin Rucinsky gave New York an early lead, and Jed Ortmeyer, Steve Rucchin and Michael Nylander widened it in the second period for the surprising Rangers, who have earned points in all but one of their first six games (3-1-2).
Ville Nieminen made it 5-1 with 7:53 left.
Still, Renney wanted more.
``We could have been sharper, we could have been crisper,'' he said. ``We could have done things to help our cause earlier.''
Marcel Hossa had his first two assists of the season while playing against his brother, Marian, an All-Star forward who had an assist for Atlanta.
For the second straight night, the Thrashers had a goalie making his first NHL start. This one didn't go much better than a home wipeout against Toronto.
Atlanta is trying to get by without top goalies, Kari Lehtonen and Mike Dunham, both on the injured list because of groin injuries. Michael Garnett allowed all nine goals on 34 shots in the 9-1, fight-filled loss Friday.
Berkhoel, just two seasons removed from the University of Denver, gave up Rucinsky's fourth goal with 9:28 left in the first period. He made nine saves in the frame and appeared comfortable.
That changed during a second-period flurry when Ortmeyer, Rucchin and Nylander all scored their first goals of the season within a span of 4:13.
Ortmeyer deflected a shot by Nylander into Berkhoel and then poked in the rebound to make it 2-0 at 12:31 as the Rangers were on a delayed penalty.
Just 35 seconds later, Rucchin stretched the lead to three goals.
Nylander gave the Rangers a 4-0 advantage by ripping in a long slap shot during a power play with 3:16 left in the second, during which New York scored three times on nine shots. Berkhoel finished with 24 saves.
``The best thing that is happening to us is that we have a day off,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. ``We have kind of lost our game.''
It's understandable that the Thrashers are having trouble keeping pucks out of their net, but it's puzzling how inept their offense has been.
Atlanta (2-4) scored 15 goals in back-to-back victories over Washington but only mustered two in losses to Florida, Montreal, Toronto and the Rangers. The Thrashers' power play clicked eight times in 23 chances against the Capitals, yet the unit is 0-for-28 against everyone else.
They are still waiting for a boost from Kovalchuk, who tied for the NHL lead with 41 goals during the 2003-04 season. In three games since signing a new contract and rejoining the team, he has one goal. Atlanta is 0-3 with two scored and 16 against.
Kovalchuk finally netted one with 10:53 left by shooting a puck in off the skate of defenseman Darius Kasparaitis.
``Getting the big guy in the lineup, suddenly you think it's going to come by itself,'' Hartley said. ``It doesn't work like that.''
Notes: Dunham - formerly of the Rangers - was placed on the injured list before the game, retroactive to Oct. 12. The Thrashers recalled D Mark Popovic from Chicago of the AHL. ... Atlanta D Andy Sutton was suspended for four games by the NHL one day after his match penalty against Toronto's Darcy Tucker.
|Martin Rucinsky (4) ASST: Fedor Tyutin (2), Marcel Hossa (1)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Jed Ortmeyer (1) ASST: Michael Nylander (5), Martin Straka (7)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Steve Rucchin (1) ASST: Martin Rucinsky (2), Marcel Hossa (2)|
3 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Michael Nylander (1) ASST: Michal Rozsival (2), Jaromir Jagr (3)|
4 - 0 NYR
|Ilya Kovalchuk (1) ASST: Patrik Stefan (2), Marian Hossa (5)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Ville Nieminen (2) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (4), Marek Malik (1)|
5 - 1 NYR
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Scott Mellanby|
|Marek Malik Hooking|
|Greg De Vries Hooking against Steve Rucchin|
|Jed Ortmeyer Holding|
|Patrik Stefan Interference|
|Scott Mellanby Interference against Darius Kasparaitis|
|Marek Malik Hooking|
|Petr Prucha Tripping against Garnet Exelby|
|Tom Poti Hi-sticking|
|Scott Mellanby Interference against Jaromir Jagr|