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Atlanta Thrashers 4, New York Rangers 3 FINAL

NHL.com @NHL

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Atlanta Thrashers showed the New York Rangers just how successful a young team can be. After being swept in a home-and-home series by the upstart Thrashers, the Rangers started making some changes.

The Rangers were beaten 4-3 Tuesday night by the Thrashers, who also defeated them Sunday in Atlanta. With the postseason out of reach for a seventh straight season, New York traded Alex Kovalev to the playoff-bound Montreal Canadiens after the game.

``He's a good player, but for whatever reason _ whether it was the chemistry or the mix _ it just didn't work,'' Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney said.

Kovalev had only 23 goals and 32 assists in 90 games back during his second stint in New York. This could be the first of many deals for the disappointing Rangers, who have nothing to show for the NHL's highest payroll.

``I have to do better than I did before,'' Kovalev said. ``Right now I don't want to hurt a team anymore and I guess it's just time for me to move.''

Patrik Stefan had three assists, and Pasi Nurminen made 26 saves for the Thrashers, 7-0-1 in their last eight against the Rangers. Nurminen is 5-0-1 in his last six starts versus against New York.

``We played a pretty smart road game,'' Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. ``Very few turnovers, and once again our penalty killing was huge. We're in a good groove and we're making a push.''

The Thrashers are 11th in the Eastern Conference, 11 points behind the eighth-place Islanders for the last postseason spot, Atlanta is trying to reach the playoffs for the first time in the franchise's five-year history.

Kovalev, traded to Montreal for minor league forward Josef Balej and a second-round pick in this year's draft, assisted on the Rangers' final goal. By that time, he was resigned to the fact that he'd probably be dealt for the second time in a year.

``I expected that they were going to trade me,'' Kovalev said. ``Rumors have been around for a while about most of the guys, about Leetchy (Brian Leetch) and the other guys. But I knew that eventually I was going to go somewhere so I was ready for that.''

Atlanta went ahead 1-0 on Dany Heatley's sixth goal at 6:34 of the first period. Heatley took a pass from Stefan right in front of Mike Dunham and slipped a soft shot between his pads.

``We've had some success against this team,'' Heatley said. ``Part of it is we're playing smart, playing strong defensively and keeping it simple. Pasi made some big saves. He's been a big part of our team and he played good tonight.''

The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead at 8:48 on a power-play goal by Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored his 36th goal on a slap shot from the point five seconds into the advantage.

Kovalchuk had two goals against New York on Sunday, one game after being benched for missing a team meeting.

Mark Messier pulled New York within 2-1 at 9:33 with his 16th goal. Messier snared a loose puck deep in the Atlanta zone, skated out of the left corner and beat Nurminen to the short side with a sharp-angle shot.

Jussi Markkanen replaced Dunham in goal at that point. Then with New York on a power play at 17:20, Messier threaded a backhand pass from behind the net to Chris Simon, who scored his 13th goal from point-blank range.

Daniel Tjarnqvist's short-handed goal at 12:03 of the second period gave Atlanta a 3-2 lead.

Randy Robitaille was credited with his 10th goal when the rebound of his shot went in off Rangers defenseman Tom Poti at 9:03 of the third period. The power-play goal, which proved to be the winner, gave Atlanta a 4-2 lead.

``I knocked it out,'' Markkanen said. ``It was a lack of communication for both of us. I should have looked better at what Tom was doing and wait for a little bit because he just went for a guy and I had time to do my thing.''

Dan LaCouture pulled New York within 4-3 just 1:10 later with his fourth goal, converting a nifty pass from behind the net from Kovalev, who suddenly finds himself in a postseason race.

``Montreal is a young team and in the playoffs,'' he said. ``I'll get a chance to go back to the playoffs and try to be successful.''

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