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Thrashers get first win
Interim coach leads Atlanta to 5-3 victory

ATLANTA - It came too late to save Bob Hartley's job, but the Thrashers finally got that elusive first victory.

General manager Don Waddell won his first game after replacing Curt Fraser in 2002 and the move paid off again - at least for one night.

The Thrashers beat the New York Rangers 5-3 at Philips Arena, getting a bit of revenge after being swept by the same team in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The main thing, though, was just getting a victory after being outscored 27-9 in six losses to start the season.

"We talked about starting over 0-0," said Waddell, who fired Hartley on Wednesday and took over on an interim basis.

Now the Thrashers are 1-0 under Waddell, but the victory didn't come without a price.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen left with a groin strain midway in the first period and will likely miss a major junk of the Thrashers' upcoming seven-game road trip.

"He'll be out for a while," said Waddell, who will know more after Lehtonen gets a MRI.

But veteran backup goalie Johan Hedberg came in with 8:30 left in the first period and played even better than Lehtonen, who had opened the game with a couple of outstanding saves.

Hedberg made 27 stops, some brilliant, and had the enthusiastic crowd of 14,076 chanting "Moose! Moose! Moose!" in honor of his nickname.

"It's a big monkey off our backs," Hedberg said of getting that first win.

Waddell fired Fraser the day after Christmas in 2002 and the Thrashers won a day later in Carolina by the same 5-3 score. The team was 4-5-1 before Hartley was hired in mid-January of that season.

The Thrashers never led while being embarrassed by the Rangers in the playoffs last year, but they jumped ahead early this time against nemesis Henrik Lundqvist.

Pascal Dupuis put Atlanta ahead 4:21 into the game, converting Brad Larsen's blind pass into the slot for his first goal of the season. The score came shortly after Lehtonen had made a couple of big saves at the other end.

"It gave us all a big lift," Dupuis said of his goal. "We had so much trouble scoring and getting a lead."

Then the Thrashers, who had struggled mightily on the power play this season, converted a 5-on-3 advantage with 6:23 gone in the first period. Marian Hossa fed Slava Kozlov, who tapped in his second goal of the season. It was just the third time the Thrashers had scored on the power play this season.

The Thrashers made it 3-0 at 10:13 of the second period, Todd White scoring his first goal of the season with the team shorthanded. Lundqvist stopped White's first try, but the center was able to tap in his own rebound. Eric Perrin got the assist - his first point as a Thrasher.

Atlanta got a scare shortly after White's goal when rookie defenseman Tobias Enstrom crashed into the boards after being cross-checked by Martin Straka. Enstrom had to be helped to the locker room, but returned for the third period.

The Thrashers took a four-goal lead 2:58 into the final period, with rookie center Bryan Little scoring his second goal.

The Rangers (2-4-0) finally beat Hedberg for a power-play goal by rookie Daniel Girardi with 10:22 left, but Hossa answered with a power-play score of his own just 57 seconds later. It was Hossa's second goal of the season.

Rangers veteran Brendan Shanahan scored on a power play with 5:53 left, but the Thrashers had their first victory in hand by the time Scott Gomez knocked in a 5-on-3 opportunity with 60 seconds left.

It got ugly in the late going, with several scuffles breaking out. There was nothing ugly about the Thrashers' performance this time, however.

"It was a totally different team," Hedberg said. "We showed a lot of character."

SideBar: Thrashers at Lightning

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa

TV/radio: SportSouth/680-AM