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Nikolai Zherdev shines at both ends of ice in Rangers' 3-2 win over Thrashers

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NEW YORK - Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and assist in the third period, and the New York Rangers fought off the slumping Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 Thursday night.

Zherdev gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal early in the third period and then helped set up Dan Girardi's winner with 6:27 left to give New York its fourth straight win. Markus Naslund also scored for the Rangers, who have won 10 of 13 (10-2-1).

Kari Lehtonen bounced back from a 7-0 home loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday in which he allowed all the goals on 31 shots. He finished with 30 saves, but the Thrashers (2-6-2) dropped their fourth consecutive in regulation and fifth overall (0-4-1).

With the game tied at two, Zherdev shot the puck through the crease on a wraparound try. Girardi scored the winner on the putback.

Slava Kozlov gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the first and Bryan Little tied it in the third. Todd White had two assists.

Atlanta made it 2-2 during a power play at 10:28 when White found Little alone in front. With goalie Henrik Lundqvist sprawled on his stomach, Little lifted a shot over him for his fifth goal.

The Rangers took a 2-1 lead 3:30 earlier on Zherdev's power-play goal. Zherdev took the puck from defenceman Tobias Enstrom near the right-wing boards, worked it back and forth on his stick as he closed in on Lehtonen, then snapped a backhand that somehow squeezed under the crossbar and popped up the water bottle.

Naslund, who extended his point streak to five with a first-period goal, thought he had given the Rangers the lead during a power play 30 seconds into the middle period. Naslund got to a rebound of his shot, turned his right foot and skated into the puck - knocking it past Lehtonen. The goal was waved off after a video replay.

That began a string of three straight power plays for the Rangers, who had a pair of fruitless 5-on-3 advantages before the second period was three minutes old. The first lasted 1:12, compared to three seconds for the latter. All three power plays ran off with frustrated fans at Madison Square Garden imploring the Rangers to shoot. New York didn't record a shot while skating with a two-man advantage.

Atlanta nearly grabbed the lead while short-handed when White escaped a pack of Rangers and raced on a breakaway. White was chased by Zherdev, who caught him with a full-body dive and knocked the puck away with a swipe of his stick.

The Thrashers, who recorded only 14 shots through two periods, took a 1-0 lead 4:41 into the game. Kozlov snapped a shot into the top right corner for his fourth goal.

Naslund tied it 7:44 later with his fourth.

Lundqvist made 27 saves and earned his NHL-leading eighth win.

Notes: The Rangers traded disappointing forward Hugh Jessiman to the Nashville Predators for future considerations. Jessiman, taken with the No. 12 pick in the 2003 draft, never played a regular-season game with New York. ... White leads the Thrashers with nine points and seven assists. ... Thrashers D Zach Bogosian, the No. 3 pick in this year's draft, missed his first game after breaking his left leg Tuesday against Philadelphia. ... Naslund has three goals and four assists during his streak.

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