ATLANTA — The Atlanta Thrashers haven’t yet made up for last season’s playoff flop, but at least they’ve made up for a miserable start to this season.
Slava Kozlov’s slap shot from beyond the left circle with about 5 minutes left in the game lifted the Thrashers to a 4-2 win over New York on Friday night, handing the Rangers their third straight loss.
After the Rangers swept the Thrashers in the first round of the playoffs last season, Atlanta coach Bob Hartley had a short leash to start this season, and he was fired after an 0-6 start.
The Thrashers are 14-7-1 under general manager and interim coach Don Waddell, including two wins over the Rangers.
Kozlov, who had an assist on the game-tying goal in the second period, shot the puck above the left shoulder of Rangers goalie Stephen Valiquette, breaking a 2-2 tie.
"They backed off toward their net, so I waited to get a screen in front of the goal," Kozlov said.
Kozlov also was in the spotlight with his decisive goal in the shootout of Wednesday night’s win over the New York Islanders.
"Both are goals," Kozlov said. "Either way, it’s two points for us."
Waddell applauded Kozlov’s pass across the ice in front of the net to set up a goal by Pascal Dupuis for a 2-2 tie at 5:58 of the second period.
"Kozlov showed experience and made a great play on the second goal," Waddell said. "He made a smart play there and to score the game-winner was a good play coming up the neutral zone. He waited and used the defenseman as a screen."
Valiquette insisted he was not screened.
"(Kozlov) ripped it," Valiquette said. "I was not screened. It was fair and square."
Eric Boulton and Marian Hossa also had goals for Atlanta. Hossa’s goal came with only 5.2 seconds left, after New York pulled its goalie for the final minute.
Johan Hedberg stopped 30 shots for Atlanta (14-13-1), which moved above .500 for only the second time this season.
"Moose played solid hockey; he gave us a chance to win," Kozlov said of Hedberg.
Each team started backup goalies. Waddell rested Kari Lehtonen. Atlanta plays again Saturday night at Washington and Lehtonen only recently returned from a groin injury.
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist was given the night off one day after he was pulled in the Rangers’ 6-2 loss to Toronto. Lundqvist, coming off a 4-0 loss to Carolina, was pulled after stopping only six of 10 shots against Toronto.
Valiquette made 18 stops in only his third start of the season.
"I’m disappointed because I thought we played a very strong game," Valiquette said. "Everyone hustled and played hard. We played much better than the last couple of games. ... Hockey is humbling sometimes."
Valiquette wasn’t the only New York player to say the Rangers, who outshot the Thrashers 32-22, played better than the score indicated.
"I thought we played great," Rangers center Scott Gomez said. "We stuck to the game plan. We did everything, but it wasn’t enough."
Boulton gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead only 2:15 into the game.
The Rangers answered quickly with two goals. Marcel Hossa shot 4:09 into the game tied the score, and less than 2« minutes later Chris Drury’s rebound shot gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Hedberg was in from of the left corner of the net to stop a shot by Petr Prucha, but the puck bounced to Drury with the rest of the net still open.
"We’re not happy about the loss at all, naturally, but we played a game that was more in keeping with what we have been up to in the last month or so," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
The Rangers had a goal disallowed only 35 seconds into the second period. Brandon Dubinsky scored in front of Hedberg for an apparent 3-1 New York lead, but a review showed Dubinsky kicked the puck into the net.
An Atlanta goal was also disallowed, this time without a review, midway through the third period. Marian Hossa’s would-be goal was waved off by officials who said they blew the play dead, ruling Valiquette had the puck covered, before Hossa hit it out of his glove into the net.
Notes: Jim Slater had two assists for Atlanta. ... Atlanta’s Chris Thorburn and New York’s Jason Strudwick each drew 5-minute fighting penalties only 1:27 into the game. ... The Thrashers evened their home record at 6-6-0 and moved over .500 at 14-13-1 overall. ... Dupuis scored for the second straight game, giving him 75 career goals in his seventh season. ... Marcel Hossa’s goal was his first of the season.