ATLANTA — Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik gave New York the lead with goals 41 seconds apart in the first period and the Rangers beat Atlanta 5-2 on Friday night for the Thrashers' fifth straight loss.
Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves to help the Rangers end a four-game losing streak.
Prospal had two goals and an assist, Gaborik had a goal and two assists, and Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Callahan — into an empty net — also scored for New York in the critical game for each team's fading playoff hopes.
Clarke MacArthur and Ron Hainsey scored for Atlanta.
Defenseman Chris Chelios, the 48-year-old 11-time All-Star, played 10 minutes in his home debut for the Thrashers. He was recalled from Chicago of the AHL on Wednesday.
The Thrashers' five straight losses, including three at home, have come in eight days since they briefly held eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They have scored only six goals in the five losses — all in regulation.
Coach John Anderson called the opener of a five-game homestand a must-win game for Atlanta, which began the night tied for 10th in the conference, a point behind the Rangers. The Thrashers didn't answer the call.
Prospal scored on a shot past Johan Hedberg's catching glove 7:49 into the first period. Gaborik, who set up Prospal's goal, added a rebound shot on the power play 41 seconds later for a 2-0 lead. Prospal's second goal of the opening period, also on the power play, pushed the lead to 3-0.
The Thrashers, who won the first three games of the season against the Rangers, were denied their first season sweep since 2002-03.
NOTES: Rangers F Sean Avery was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He missed five games early in the season due to an injury. Enver Lisin replaced Avery after sitting out five of the last seven games, including the last three. ... The five-game losing streak is the longest for Atlanta since a nine-game streak from Dec. 19 through Jan. 5. ... Hedberg made 30 saves.