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Thrashers fall in season finale

POSTED: April 11, 2011 12:43 a.m.

ATLANTA  — Tyler Kennedy scored the first of Pittsburgh's four second-period goals, reserve goalie Brent Johnson won his fourth straight decision, and the Penguins closed the regular season with a 5-2 victory Sunday over the already-eliminated Atlanta Thrashers.

Pascal Dupuis, Michael Rupp and rookie Mark Letestu added goals to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead 18:14 into the second. Kennedy's 21st goal came on a power play.

Late in the third, Mike Comrie scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-1. Ben Lovejoy finished with three assists.
The Thrashers, who missed the playoffs for the 10th time in their 11-year history, scored twice on power plays. Andrew Ladd's 29th goal came on a two-man advantage to make it 1-0 early. Tim Stapleton added his fifth to cut the deficit to 4-2 with 6:45 left in the game.

Pittsburgh, which will face Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs, closed the regular season with its 49th victory — tying the 1995-96 Penguins for second-most in a single season. The Penguins' 24th road win tied the 1992-93 team for second-most.

The Penguins closed the regular season with 44 points during a 35-game stretch in which injured star centers Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee) played just nine shifts of one game.

Winning for the 12th time in 13 games against the Thrashers, Pittsburgh was without its top two goal scorers and points leaders on the active roster as Chris Kunitz and James Neal were scratched.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma also gave top goalie Marc-Andre Fleury the day off. Johnson filled in well, making 37 saves and improving to 13-5-3.

The Penguins tied it 1-1 when Eric Tangradi moved into the crease to screen goalie Chris Mason and help Kennedy score with a shot to the stick side 6:25 into the second.

Dupuis' 17th goal gave the Penguins the lead for good at 10:53. As teammate Max Talbot stopped suddenly in the left circle to freeze defenseman Mark Stuart, Dupuis took the puck in the bottom of the slot and beat Mason.

Eric Godard used the backboards to pass from right to left behind the net to Rupp for his ninth goal, an easy wrister.
Letestu's 14th goal came on a forehand from the bottom of the right circle. The puck glanced in off Mason's skate.

Pittsburgh, which began the game slightly ahead of Washington for the NHL's top penalty-killing unit, turned aside three of five short-handed situations.

A fan threw a drink onto the ice in Atlanta's zone after Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek appeared to reach forward on Bryan Little's breakaway to trip the Atlanta center. No penalty was called.

NOTES: Mason made 15 saves. ... Tangradi, who assisted on Letestu's goal, played in his first game since Feb. 11. He missed 16 games because of a concussion sustained in a brawl-filled game against the New York Islander and was a healthy scratch the last eight. ... Ladd's goal was his first point in four games against the Penguins this season. ... Pittsburgh improved to 15-5-2 at Philips Arena.



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