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Associated Press
11/30/2006 11:52:51 PM


ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Thrashers ended three years of frustration against Toronto.

Marian Hossa had three goals and an assist, Kari Lehtonen stopped 36 shots and the Thrashers beat the Maple Leafs 5-0 Thursday night for a victory that meant the most to Atlanta's veterans.

''I think we sent them a message that we're not going to accept it anymore,'' said Slava Kozlov, who savoured his four assists after playing in eight straight losses to Toronto. ''We beat them in our building and next week we get a chance to beat them in their building.''

It was Atlanta's first win over the Maple Leafs since a 3-2 overtime victory on Oct. 27, 2003, in Toronto. The Maple Leafs outscored the Thrashers 37-9 in their eight straight wins, including a 4-2 victory on Oct. 30 in Toronto.

Hossa responded to Atlanta fans chanting his name by completing his hat trick with about three minutes left. Lehtonen earned his fourth shutout of the season, handing Toronto its first shutout loss.

''We're going to have some ugly nights, and this was one of them,'' Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.

Lehtonen added to his team record with seven career shutouts, including two straight in home wins. He blanked Florida 1-0 on Saturday.

Toronto has totalled two goals in three straight losses, matching its longest skid of the season.

''Anytime you lose three games in a row it is frustrating, and we have a lot of work to do,'' said Mats Sundin, who led Toronto with six shots. ''We have to get back. We're right in the mix of things and there are a lot of teams in the same position as we are, so we have to just start winning hockey games again.''

Scott Mellanby and Brad Larsen also scored for the Thrashers, who won their third straight.

Hossa ended his personal history of frustration against Toronto with his first hat trick for Atlanta. Hossa leads the NHL with 20 goals this season, but he had only one goal and one assist in his last nine games against Toronto, a streak that began before Hossa's 2005 trade to Atlanta from Ottawa.

Hossa passed the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr for the league scoring lead with 39 points. Hossa also leads the league with 20 power-play points.

''He's a fantastic player. He's awesome,'' Toronto's Jeff O'Neill said. ''Give him time and space and he will hurt you.''

Hossa said he heard the fans calling his name but said he wasn't thinking about completing his fifth career hat trick.

''It felt nice,'' he said. ''If I get two goals or three goals that's fine, but I'm just happy the team won.''

Hossa's first goal gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead with 6:52 left in the first period. Hossa waited about five feet to Andrew Raycroft's left as the Thrashers crisply executed passes from Kozlov to Mellanby to Hossa, who was left with a clear opening for his short wrist shot.

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Terrible performance by Toronto. I hate when they do that. A player like Hossa comes along, and they continually give him chance after chance, and play him like any other player out on the ice.

Raycroft got killed out there. Toronto better get back on track, 'cause suddenly they only hold a playoff spot by 3 points.

And ALL the teams behind them have games in hand. :eek:
 
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