March 31, 2010 / 3:25 AM / in 8 years

Thrashers stay in playoff hunt with victory over Leafs

TORONTO (Reuters) - Nik Antropov’s third period goal against his former employers earned Atlanta a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, keeping alive the Thrashers’ playoff hopes at the expense of the home team.

<p>Atlanta Thrashers forward Nik Antropov celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>

Antropov, who spent nine seasons in Toronto before signing with Atlanta, snuffed out a spirited comeback early in the final period when he redirected Ron Hainsey’s shot past Jonas Gustavsson to set off a chorus of jeers from the home fans.

The defeat also mathematically eliminated Toronto from post-season contention, completing a miserable season for the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

”They (the fans) can do whatever they want, we got the two points and that’s all that matters right now,“ Antropov told reporters. ”Personal stats right now are secondary for me, we’re battling for a playoff spot now and that’s all that matters.

“It’s really tough to play teams out of the playoff race... they have nothing to lose.”

The Thrashers remained in ninth place in the East two points behind the Boston Bruins, who maintained a hold on the final playoff spot with a 1-0 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils.

After a listless and scoreless opening period, the Thrashers took control of the contest in the second with Maxim Afinogenov and Evgeny Artyukhin scoring 46 seconds apart.

The Leafs pulled one back just before the end of the period when Viktor Stalberg took a goalmouth feed from Tyler Bozak and slammed the puck into an open net.

Toronto continued their comeback in the third when Stalberg whipped a wrist shot past Ondrej Pavelec to level the contest at 2-2 but Antropov restored Atlanta’s lead just 57 seconds later.

The Thrashers played the final two minutes with Jim Slater in the penalty and fought off one final assault by the Maple Leafs, who pulled Gustavsson in favor of an extra-attacker.

The loss snapped Gustavsson’s streak of seven consecutive wins, two shy of the team record shared by three players.

Editing by John O'Brien

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