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NHL Game Summary - NY Rangers at Atlanta

(Sunday, February 29th)

Final Score: Atlanta 3, NY Rangers 2

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Atlanta lineup after being benched in its previous game and scored two goals, lifting the Thrashers over the New York Rangers, 3-2, at Philips Arena.

Kovalchuk was not in the Atlanta lineup during the Thrashers' 3-2 win over New Jersey on Friday for missing a team meeting. He responded with the two goals to push his league-leading total to 35 this season.

"I apologized to the team and I just wanted to show them I was ready to go today," Kovalchuk explained.

Patrik Stefan also scored and Pasi Nurminen finished with 28 saves, as Atlanta won the front end of the home-and-home series to improve to 6-0-1 in the last seven meetings between the teams.

Chris Simon and Brian Leetch scored for New York, which lost in overtime in its previous game Saturday in Nashville. Mike Dunham stopped 17 shots as New York continued to struggle against Atlanta.

The Thrashers got on the board first when Kovalchuk scored directly off a faceoff just over five minutes into the game. Randy Robitaille won the draw directly to Kovalchuk in the slot, allowing the sniper to send a wrist shot past Dunham stick-side for a 1-0 lead.

Atlanta had a chance to increase its advantage but failed to score after two full minutes on a two-man advantage. Kovalchuk was denied his second goal of the contest by a great glove save by Dunham during the power play.

"[Kovalchuk] has a lot to offer on the ice, but like any other 20-year-old, he has a lot to learn," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said of his young superstar.

The Rangers then evened the score just after the penalties expired when Simon came out of the box and almost had a breakaway attempt. Nurminen, though, came out of the net and intercepted the puck, firing it directly to New York's Mark Messier at the left point. Messier's attempt on net was denied by a sliding Nurminen, but Simon slammed home the rebound to tie the game at 1-1 with 44 seconds left in the first.

Despite five power-play opportunities in the second period for New York, Atlanta scored the only goal of the stanza. Stefan notched the shorthanded tally when Shawn McEachern sent him a pass from the corner. Wide-open right in front of the cage, Stefan easily slid the puck past Dunham for a 2-1 advantage with 1:30 left in the middle period.

"I don't know how many power plays we had, but we didn't do anything with them," Leetch said.

Kovalchuk then scored his second goal of the contest just 37 seconds into the third period, but New York answered when with a marker from Leetch 1:40 later. Kovalchuk scored on a slap shot from the left circle, while Leetch found the back of the net after sneaking in from the point to slam home a pass from Messier in front.

Nurminen was solid down the stretch and finished with 10 saves in the final period, helping Atlanta emerge victorious.

Game Notes

The Thrashers activated forward Vyacheslav Kozlov, who had missed the last six games with a shoulder injury, from injured reserve prior to the game. Kozlov played 15:20 and produced two shots on net...Kovalchuk recorded his sixth multi-goal game of the season...Atlanta won at home for the first time since January 20 against Buffalo, a span of seven games (0-5-2)...The Rangers were 0-for-7 on the power play in the game. Atlanta went scoreless in three chances with the extra skater, the first time in eight games they failed to score a power-play goal...New York's Martin Rucinsky played in his 800th NHL game, while Boris Mironov skated in his 700th career contest...Messier finished with two assists for the Rangers and Atlanta's Daniel Tjarnqvist also ended with two helpers.

02/29 19:11:15 ET

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