NEW YORK -- The Atlanta Thrashers have been resigned to the fact they will not be part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since they were eliminated from contention Saturday.
That doesn't mean they won't have a say in who gets the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They played the role of spoiler on Thursday night, beating the New York Rangers 3-0 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers had every reason to be the better, more motivated team, but it was the Thrashers who controlled play for nearly the entire game.
The Rangers maintained control of eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- but they now need help from none other than the Thrashers, who will host the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
Usually the misery in one locker room will be balanced by an equal amount of joy in the winning locker room. That wasn't the case Thursday, as the Thrashers took no added satisfaction in throwing a wrench into the Rangers' playoff plans.
"It's in your head a little bit, but it doesn't matter who you play against," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 29 shots for just his fourth win in 16 decisions. "My job is to be ready to play a game, and it doesn't matter who you play against. We know it's too late right now, but we still want to win the games. It's the NHL. When you step on the ice, you want to play as hard as you can. You want to win the game.
"I'm happy for the win, but two more games and the season is over. It's a little disappointing. We can beat those guys, and they still are battling for a spot and we are out already."
Forward Rob Schremp, who had a goal and an assist, didn't even crack a smile when asked if it felt good to hurt their opponents' postseason prospects.
"I don't think we think about that part of it," Schremp said. "We just talked about making sure we were ready for their push of energy. It's their home rink and a big two points for them, so we knew they were going to come hard.
"It's not like we're sitting in here, chumming about knocking them out of the playoffs. It's not our focus. It's not a key for us."
The Thrashers have played the Hurricanes tough this season, going 1-1-3. Their only win came in their most recent matchup, a 3-2 overtime victory March 9 in Carolina.
But defenseman Johnny Oduya said the goal is to win, and hurting a team vying for a playoff spot in the final days of the season doesn't add any motivation for him.
"We're trying not to focus too much on the other team and what position they're in," he said. "We're trying to focus on things we want to do and trying to build and do things right."
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