NEW YORK - Rob Schremp and Andrew Ladd scored 15 seconds apart in the second period, Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves and the Atlanta Thrashers delivered a crushing blow to the New York Rangers' playoff hopes with a 3-0 victory Thursday night.
Just two nights after the Rangers posted their most stirring win of the season with a late comeback against the Boston Bruins, New York looked flat from the start without second-leading scorer and leader Ryan Callahan.
That proved costly against the also-ran Thrashers, who had lost four of six but played the spoiler role perfectly and beat New York for the third time in the four-game season series.
Now with only one game left in the regular season - a home matchup against division rival New Jersey on Saturday - the Rangers no longer hold their playoff fate in their hands. New York leads ninth-place Carolina by two points, but the Hurricanes have two games remaining and own the tiebreaker over the Rangers.
New York, which had won 10 of 14 (10-3-1), trails seventh-place Buffalo by one point. The Sabres have two games left.
Pavelec was solid throughout in posting his fourth shutout of the season and sixth in four NHL seasons.
He turned aside desperate Rangers chances in the third as New York tried to somehow get back in the game. Eric Boulton stretched Atlanta's lead to 3-0 at 4:19 of the third period.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said after Tuesday's win that he was nervous about this meeting with the Thrashers, and those fears proved to be real.
The loss of Callahan, who sustained a broken leg in the final minutes Tuesday after setting up the tying goal, was felt deeply.
Just as they have done all season, the Thrashers gave the Rangers fits. New York had only itself to blame by coming out in sluggish fashion in the second period.
Atlanta forced turnovers, controlled play, and finally got the best of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Once Schremp broke the seal at 7:42, Ladd followed at 7:57 to put the Rangers in a 2-0 hole.
New York had multiple chances to clear the puck from its zone, but couldn't get it out. Thrashers defenseman Andrey Zubarev, in just his second NHL game, found Schremp in the circle with a pass that led to a rising shot that beat Lundqvist.
On the ensuing shift, Ladd got behind Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi - who had a rough game - shifted the puck to his backhand and netted his 28th goal of the season.
The Rangers put pressure on Pavelec at times, and even had a chance to put in a loose puck through traffic in the crease, but couldn't find it in timely fashion.
New York received a power play when Zubarev was sent off for holding 45 seconds after Ladd's goal, but that advantage lasted only 21 seconds before Vinny Prospal was called for boarding.
That was especially damaging because the Thrashers entered the game with the third least-effective penalty-killing unit in the NHL.
It was stout against the Rangers, however, turning aside four short-handed situations and nine of 10 in the season series.
NOTES: Schremp had an assist on Boulton's goal. ... Ladd played in his 400th NHL game. ... Rangers LW Brandon Prust was given the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award before the game. Callahan, the winner the previous two seasons, walked out with crutches to be part of the ceremony. ... Zubarev was recalled from Chicago of the AHL on April 4. He made his NHL debut the following night at Nashville, but didn't record a point in 20:41 of ice time. ... The Rangers were 11-7-2 when Callahan was out with other injuries earlier this season. ... The Thrashers came in with the least-effective, road penalty-killing unit. ... Rangers top-line forward Marian Gaborik didn't play after being beaten up ice on Boulton's goal.