National Hockey League

NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, April 18th (All times eastern)

(3) Atlanta Thrashers (0-3) at (6) New York Rangers (3-0), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The New York Rangers will try to sweep their first playoff series in 13 years tonight, when they host the demoralized Atlanta Thrashers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden.

After winning the first two tests in Atlanta, the sixth-seeded Rangers returned home to Manhattan for Game 3 on Tuesday and destroyed the Thrashers, 7-0. It was the first playoff win on home ice for the Rangers since May 8, 1997, a 3-0 win over the Devils in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals.

New York now has a chance to record the franchise's first sweep in the postseason since disposing of the rival New York Islanders in four games during the 1994 conference quarterfinals. That year, the Rangers went on to win the club's first Stanley Cup title since 1940.

Michael Nylander's first career playoff hat trick and Ryan Callahan's first two playoff goals led the Rangers to Tuesday's rout.

Jaromir Jagr had four assists for the Rangers, who are holding a 3-0 series' lead for the first time since beating Washington in five games in the 1994 conference semifinals.

Marek Malik had a goal and an assist, Sean Avery picked up a pair of helpers and Brendan Shanahan notched the 54th goal of his playoff career.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to earn his first career postseason shutout. The Swedish netminder has been superb in this series, posting a 1.33 goals against average and .945 save percentage while winning all three games.

On the other hand, Kari Lehtonen gave up seven goals on 35 shots in the loss for the Thrashers, who suffered yet another defeat in the first playoff series in franchise history. Lehtonen was back as the starter after Johan Hedberg replaced him for Game 2. Hedberg made 37 saves for Atlanta in Saturday's 2-1 loss.

Lehtonen's numbers in this series are far from solid, as he has surrendered 11 goals on 73 shots and is sporting an astronomical 5.59 GAA.

While Lehtonen has struggled, the Thrashers have to be even more disappointed with the disappearance of leading-scorer Marian Hossa, who scored 100 points during the regular season, but has failed to register a point in this series.

The third-seeded Thrashers, champions of the Southeast Division, are still trying to notch the club's first-ever playoff win.

Should the Rangers lose this evening then Game 5 of this best-of-seven set will be played Friday in Atlanta.

04/18 10:53:19 ET

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