Originally created 01/26/03

Heatley burns Rangers



NEW YORK -- Dany Heatley thought his second career hat trick couldn't have come at a better place.

Heatley scored three goals to lead the Atlanta Thrashers to a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

"It's nice to get a hat trick here," Heatley said. "I always get juiced to play New York."

Heatley, who won the Calder Trophy last season as the NHL's rookie of the year, scored twice in the second period and had an empty-net goal with 37 seconds left to complete the hat trick.

He has 21 goals, just five off his total as a rookie.

"He's an unbelievable player," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "He's the total package."

Pasi Nurminen made 23 saves and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored as the Thrashers beat the Rangers for the third straight time, including twice this season. Atlanta also improved to 4-1-1-0 under Hartley.

"Pasi has earned every minute he's played," Heatley said. "Nobody's handed him anything. He's our guy."

Petr Nedved scored for the Rangers, who lost for just the second time in their last seven games (5-2-0-0). It was also New York's second straight loss at home.

"It puts us back again," New York's Eric Lindros said. "We played a team that if we stuck to our game plan, we should have beaten. We just didn't play very well, to be honest with you."

Mike Dunham made 24 saves in his 18th start in 19 games for the Rangers.

"They maximized on minimizing us," Rangers forward Bobby Holik said. "They really didn't give us much and they maximized on our mistakes."

After a scoreless first period in which each goalie made eight saves, Atlanta capitalized on a turnover to take a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the second period.

Rangers defenseman Vladimir Malakhov turned the puck over at his own blue line, and Heatley capitalized with a wrist shot over Dunham's shoulder.

Heatley scored again at 9:21 to give the Thrashers a 2-0 lead. Capping a three-on-two rush, Heatley took Andy Sutton's centering pass and wristed a shot into the top left side.

The Rangers cut the deficit at 14:16 when Nedved, jostling in the low slot, deflected Joel Bouchard's left point shot past Nurminen.

Nurminen made a huge save when he smothered Lindros' one-timer from the left circle with 14:12 left in the game.

"We played a solid game," Nurminen said. "The guys kept it pretty clear in front of the net. They had to, the Rangers came pretty hard."

Hartley said Nurminen will keep playing as long as he keeps winning.

"We're in this business to win," Hartley said. "If Pasi keeps winning, he keeps playing. He's been so successful for us right now. When I first got here, I didn't even know his name."

The Rangers pressed, but then gave up a two-on-one break and Kovalchuk finished it off by taking Slava Kozlov's pass and beating Dunham for his 28th goal at 16:37.

Heatley completed his hat trick with an empty net goal with 37 seconds left.

"It just seemed like we were on the wrong side of the puck all night," Rangers forward Matthew Barnaby said. "They outplayed us. This can't happen."

Notes: Heatley's first career hat trick came in Atlanta's 7-4 victory over Philadelphia on Jan. 13. ... Atlanta has scored 23 goals and allowed just 10 under Hartley. ... It was Hartley's first road game as Atlanta's coach. ... The Rangers (21-24-6-1) were last at .500 on Dec. 5, when they were 12-12-4-1. The only time New York eclipsed .500 was on opening night, when they won in Carolina. ... On Heatley's first goal, Atlanta's Marc Savard suffered a right hamstring injury when Malakhov ran into him. He missed the rest of the game, and will be re-evaluated Sunday. Teammate Pascal Rheaume missed the game with the flu.