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Lundqvist leads Rangers in Weekes' absence

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rangers rookie Henrik Lundqvist gave up a goal
in the third period, and the Madison Square Garden crowd rose to
its feet and chanted his name.

This really is the new NHL.

Lundqvist made 28 saves to win for the second straight game and
New York blistered Atlanta rookie Adam Berkhoel for three
second-period goals in a 5-1 victory Saturday night over the
Thrashers.

Lundqvist was sharp throughout and flirted with his first
shutout in his third career game, filling in for the injured Kevin
Weekes (groin). When Ilya Kovalchuk spoiled the bid, the
appreciative fans -- starving for the first team's playoff
appearance since 1997 -- showed appreciation for the Swedish goalie.

"It was loud back home, but this is New York," Lundqvist said.
"Only two games here and they're saying my name. I love this crowd
already."

Lundqvist earned his second NHL victory by following up on
Thursday's 4-1 victory over New Jersey. He took time to acknowledge
the cheers and chants with a wave.

Dispelling any chance of a brewing goalie controversy, Rangers
coach Tom Renney stressed that Weekes is solidly the No. 1 goalie
and that Lundqvist still has lots to learn in the NHL.

"You always want to be the No. 1 goalie," Lundqvist said.
"But there are so many games and it goes up and down so many
times."

Martin Rucinsky gave New York an early lead, and Jed Ortmeyer,
Steve Rucchin and Michael Nylander widened it in the second period
for the surprising Rangers, who have earned points in all but one
of their first six games (3-1-2).

Ville Nieminen made it 5-1 with 7:53 left.

Still, Renney wanted more.

"We could have been sharper, we could have been crisper," he
said. "We could have done things to help our cause earlier."

Marcel Hossa had his first two assists of the season while
playing against his brother, Marian, an All-Star forward who had an
assist for Atlanta.

For the second straight night, the Thrashers had a goalie making
his first NHL start. This one didn't go much better than a home
wipeout against Toronto.

Atlanta is trying to get by without top goalies, Kari Lehtonen
and Mike Dunham, both on the injured list because of groin
injuries. Michael Garnett allowed all nine goals on 34 shots in the
9-1, fight-filled loss Friday.

Berkhoel, just two seasons removed from the University of
Denver, gave up Rucinsky's fourth goal with 9:28 left in the first
period. He made nine saves in the frame and appeared comfortable.

That changed during a second-period flurry when Ortmeyer,
Rucchin and Nylander all scored their first goals of the season
within a span of 4:13.

Ortmeyer deflected a shot by Nylander into Berkhoel and then
poked in the rebound to make it 2-0 at 12:31 as the Rangers were on
a delayed penalty.

Just 35 seconds later, Rucchin stretched the lead to three
goals.

Nylander gave the Rangers a 4-0 advantage by ripping in a long
slap shot during a power play with 3:16 left in the second, during
which New York scored three times on nine shots. Berkhoel finished
with 24 saves.

"The best thing that is happening to us is that we have a day
off," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "We have kind of lost our
game."

Atlanta (2-4) scored 15 goals in back-to-back victories over
Washington but only mustered two in losses to Florida, Montreal,
Toronto and the Rangers. The Thrashers' power play clicked eight
times in 23 chances against the Capitals, yet the unit is 0-for-28
against everyone else.

They are still waiting for a boost from Kovalchuk, who tied for
the NHL lead with 41 goals during the 2003-04 season. In three
games since signing a new contract and rejoining the team, he has
one goal. Atlanta is 0-3 with two scored and 16 against.

Kovalchuk finally netted one with 10:53 left by shooting a puck
in off the skate of defenseman Darius Kasparaitis.<

"Getting the big guy in the lineup, suddenly you think it's
going to come by itself," Hartley said. "It doesn't work like
that."

Game notes
Dunham -- formerly of the Rangers -- was placed on the
injured list before the game, retroactive to Oct. 12. The Thrashers
recalled D Mark Popovic from Chicago of the AHL. ... Atlanta D Andy
Sutton was suspended for four games by the NHL one day after his
match penalty against Toronto's Darcy Tucker.