Avery, Shanahan give Rangers 2-0 series lead

Sean Avery scored a fluky goal and then set up Brendan Shanahan, who buried the winner with four minutes left in regulation to give the New York Rangers a 2-1 playoff victory over the hometown Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.

One day, Sean Avery will look back and remember how his first career NHL playoff goal helped the New York Rangers to a big win but didn't score any style points.

Avery scored a fluky goal and then set up Brendan Shanahan, who buried the winner with four minutes left in regulation to give the New York Rangers a 2-1 victory over the hometown Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday afternoon.

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final 2-0, with Game 3 Tuesday (7 p.m. ET) in New York.

With overtime looming, Avery delivered a pretty cross-ice pass to Shanahan and the veteran winger made no mistake, firing the puck into an open net for his 54th career playoff goal and second in 10 games since returning from a concussion.

"I was going to backdoor it to Marty [Straka]," said Avery, who frustrated the Thrashers when he wasn't creating scoring chances. "But I stopped, turned around and saw Shanny standing in a good spot. He buried it."

Avery opened the scoring in bizarre fashion at the eight-minute mark of the first period when his shot took an odd bounce, apparently off a metal supportholdingthe glass and headed straight toward the net. Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg scrambled for the crease, but his dive was too late.

"A guy was finishing a check on me [near the Atlanta blue-line], so I wasn't even looking at the puck," Avery said. "I looked over and Shanny had his arms up. That's how I knew it was in."

Afterwards, Hedberg was still shaking his head over Avery's goal.

"I've never seen a puck go like that," said Hedberg, who stopped 37 of 39 shots in place of No. 1 man Kari Lehtonen, who allowed four goals in the series opener. "It just came flying."

Coach undecided

Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said he hasn't decided whether Hedberg or Lehtonen will start Game 3.

Defenceman Fedor Tyutin had two assists for the Rangers, who have won two straight over the Thrashers after losing 3-1 in the season series.

Ilya Kovalchuk, with his first career point in the NHL playoffs, was the only Thrasher to beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves for his third win against Atlanta this season.

Prior to Shanahan's heroics, Avery nearly fired his second goal of the game. With New York short-handed, he got control of the puck at centre ice, blew by fallen Atlanta defenceman Niclas Havelid but couldn't beat Hedberg, who shot the puck up ice.

With the Rangers leading 1-0, both Lundqvist and Hedberg put on a clinic midway through the second period.

Hedberg,who has a 10-11 career playoff record,first stoned Jaromir Jagr on a screen shot and then robbed Shanahan on the rebound attempt with a right-toe save.

At the other end, Lundqvist stuck out his blocker to deny Kovalchuk and later in the period thwarted Pascal Dupuis.

Both teams finished 0-for-6 on the power play.

"We came in here to do a job, and we did it," Shanahan said, referring to a pair of road wins. "But until we win four games, the job's not done."

Thrashers' top scorer Marian Hossa, who had a team-leading eight points in four regular-season games against New York, has yet to register a point in the series.

With files from the Associated Press