Rangers rally to beat Thrashers in shootout

New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36)

New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) scores the game-winning goal in a shootout against Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) during an NHL hockey game. (Jan. 22, 2011) (Credit: AP)

ATLANTA - Mats Zuccarello scored the lone goal in the shootout, his third goal in three tries this season, to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 win Saturday night in a game that the Rangers twice came back to tie.

Zuccarello scored after he slowed down in front of Ondrej Pavelec and went backhand to forehand to beat the goalie. Henrik Lundqvist stopped the third Thrashers attempt, by Niclas Bergfors, to seal the victory. The Rangers are 4-1 in shootouts this season.

Trailing 2-1, the Rangers began the third period with both Brandon Prust and Dan Girardi in the trainer's room. But Brian Boyle scored his 17th of the season, tying him for the team lead, by scooting through the middle and then around defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. His backhanded chip shot went off Pavelec's glove to tie it with 5:19 left.

Girardi was bloodied in a fight with Andrew Ladd after Ladd drove Marc Staal into the boards at 8:08 of the second period. Then Prust limped off later in the period.

The Rangers had a chance to tie it early in the third after defenseman Brent Sopel cleared the puck over the boards, creating a five-on-three for 1:24. But the Rangers, who used five forwards on the power play, could not score.

The sixth-place Rangers (28-19-3) are four points ahead of the Thrashers (23-18-9) in the East.

In the second period, with the score tied at 1, Chris Drury's shot was blocked in the offensive zone and Bryan Little swept into the Rangers zone and fired from the left side. Lundqvist got his pad on the puck, which bounced in front, where Anthony Stewart fought off Ryan McDonagh to sweep it in at 18:01.

In the second game of this three-city road trip leading up to next week's All-Star break, the Rangers dressed six rookies, including Brodie Dupont, who made his NHL debut.

In the first period, Atlanta kept the puck in with a couple of cycles, then former Ranger Nik Antropov, screening Lundqvist, managed to get a piece of Tobias Enstrom's point shot and the puck slid past the Rangers goalie at 6:47 of the first for a 1-0 lead.

With the Rangers struggling, coach John Tortorella called a timeout with 6:38 left in the first, but Pavelec continued to be aggressive by challenging shooters. He stopped Staal after a beautiful pass from Zuccarello, who had a strong game.

Otherwise, the Rangers were having trouble getting into the Atlanta zone, with their deep defense corps, led by All-Stars Byfuglien and Enstrom clogging the middle with backchecking forwards. The Rangers couldn't even dump-and-chase. Atlanta had allowed 28 goals in their previous six games, losing five of them, but Pavelec turned back all 11 shots in the first.

After the Rangers killed the final 24 seconds of Staal's penalty, Wojtek Wolski tied the game with his third goal and sixth point since he was acquired from Phoenix for Michal Rozsival. Zuccarello had been denied by Pavelec after a bad hop off the end boards, and Girardi pinched along the boards and Derek Stepan's shot was tipped high into the right corner by Wolski at 2:43.

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