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Thrashers-Rangers Preview

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The last time the New York Rangers opened the playoffs with a series sweep, they ended a lengthy Stanley Cup drought.

Following the most lopsided playoff shutout win in franchise history, the Rangers will try to eliminate the Atlanta Thrashers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers posted a 7-0 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night - their first postseason win at MSG since 1997 - and the winning margin matched New York's largest in playoff history, established with a 10-3 rout over Los Angeles on April 11, 1981. The Rangers now go for their first postseason sweep since defeating the New York Islanders in the 1993-94 conference quarterfinals en route to winning their first Stanley Cup since 1940.

"I think we are hungry and we are going to come in here tomorrow night with the mindset that we are going to finish it off and play a real hard game," forward Sean Avery told the Rangers' official Web site. "Basically, the same game we played in the first three (games of this series)."

The Rangers needed only 32 seconds to take a lead Tuesday when Michael Nylander scored the first of his two goals in the period, and Marek Malik's one-timer made it 3-0. Jaromir Jagr tied an NHL playoff record with three first-period assists and finished with four to tie a career high in the postseason.

"It is always nice to score goals but the bottom line is that we got this win," said Nylander, who leads the Rangers with four goals and seven points. "We are here to win the hockey game and we did that. We have to rest and get back tomorrow. They are going to be hungry. They are going to come out with a lot of speed and energy. We have to perform well again."

Rookie Ryan Callahan scored his first two playoff goals, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots for his first career postseason shutout.

"The guys played great in front of me," said Lundqvist, who is 11-2-2 with a 1.32 goals-against average and five shutouts in his last 15 home games. "They got a couple of shots, but we were right there. It is great to see how confident we play out there ... (but) tomorrow is a completely different story and we just have to get ready for a big game."

Southeast Division champion Atlanta's first playoff appearance has been disastrous. The Thrashers have been outscored 13-4 and are 1-for-13 with the man advantage. Kari Lehtonen gave up all seven goals Tuesday, ballooning his goals-against average to 5.59, but coach Bob Hartley didn't seem to place any blame on the second overall pick from the 2002 draft.

"How can we blame Kari?" said Hartley, who said his team froze after the early goal. "No. 1, we don't score, so at best we would still be playing. Kari Lehtonen is a young goalie. He played hard, he played very well for us but he was by himself on the ice."

The Thrashers have gotten nothing from forwards Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov, each of whom has failed to record a point through three games. Hossa led the Thrashers with 43 goals and a career-high 100 points, while Kozlov was second with 80 points during the regular season.

Should the Thrashers win, Game 5 would be at Atlanta on Friday.

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