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Thrashers 3, Rangers 2, SO @NHLdotcom

ATLANTA (AP) - Marian Hossa missed his chances during regulation, then came through in the shootout.

Hossa scored the clinching goal in Atlanta's 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, the third straight win for the Thrashers in either a shootout or overtime.

Atlanta won for the seventh time in nine games to close within one point of the Montreal for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have lost three straight since a seven-game winning streak.

"It's not pretty, but we got the points," Hossa said.

Jaromir Jagr scored his NHL-leading 43rd goal for the Rangers, but he was caught with an illegal stick in the overtime and couldn't take part in the shootout when the referees ruled that his backup stick didn't conform to the rules, either.

Still, the Rangers had a chance to win after scoring on their first two tries against Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen. Martin Rucinsky failed to get off a shot with New York leading 2-1, and Slava Kozlov tied it up for the Thrashers on a shot that caught the top of the net.

Martin Straka went next for the Rangers, firing the puck off Lehtonen's right arm. Then it was Hossa's turn. The high-scoring forward beat Henrik Lundqvist with a blistering shot over the goalie's left pad.

"It's a great feeling when people are shouting your name," Hossa said. "It gives you that extra boost, and I just tried to make it happen."

Lundqvist slammed his stick in disgust, while Hossa was mobbed by his teammates in front of the penalty box. The Thrashers also beat Florida in a shootout on Monday, following an overtime victory over Washington last weekend.

"It's been crazy for the past few games," Lehtonen said. "All of our fans, they've been in the games, so it's just an amazing feeling. And we got two points - that's the most important thing."

Marc Savard also scored for the Thrashers in the shootout, while Michael Nylander and Petr Sykora converted for New York.

"There were some pretty good goals," Lundqvist said, "but I still made it too easy for them."

Hossa had it tough before the shootout.

First, he was thwarted by Lundqvist on a breakaway. Then, Hossa beat the goalie with a low shot, only to have it clang off the inside of the post. The fog horn signaling an Atlanta goal went off, but the puck wound up under Lundqvist. For good measure, Hossa fired a shot over the net with just seconds to go in the third period.

At least he got another chance. Jagr didn't have an opportunity, sidelined by the curve of his stick.

"It was not illegal," Jagr insisted. "I know they're going to measure. Why would I go out with an illegal stick? It depends on how you measure it. You have to measure from the bottom of the stick. If (the referee) doesn't do it, what are you going to do?"

Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk picked up his 40th goal just 1:13 into the game. He tried to flip the puck in front of the net, but it bounced off Michal Rozsival and came right back to the Atlanta star. Kovalchuk tried the same tactic again from a bad angle and wound up with a goal when the puck appeared to deflect off Rozsival and sail past a surprised Lundqvist.

The Rangers tied it up only 5 seconds after going on a two-man power play. Steve Rucchin won a faceoff to Jagr, who passed to Rucinsky and then got the puck right back for a low shot that beat Lehtonen on the glove side.

After spending much of the second period on the power play, the Thrashers finally scored at even strength, thanks to pure hustle from their blue-collar line of Serge Aubin, Brad Larsen and Eric Boulton.

The trio managed to keep the puck in the Rangers' zone, even after Aubin was struck by a shot from his own team while sprawled in front of the net. Aubin got up, took a pass from Larsen and beat Lundqvist between the legs.

But New York tied it up again before the period was done. With only 6.8 seconds remaining, Thomas Pock scored his first goal of the season on a shot from just inside the blue line. Lehtonen appeared to be screened by towering Thrashers defenseman Andy Sutton.

Notes: New York's Jason Ward got a penalty shot in the first period, but the puck slid off his stick when he tried to deke Lehtonen. ... Atlanta D Garnet Exelby was sent flying early in the third period by a vicious hit from New York's Ryan Hollweg, who appeared to swing his elbow at Exelby's jaw. No penalty was called. ... The Thrashers, who came into the game leading the league with 81 power-play goals, went 0-for-9 with the man advantage.

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