Holding a 5-2 lead in the third period fans in Madison Square Garden were having a grand old time rooting their team on Sunday night, encouraging their New York Rangers to score a sixth goal.

And the Rangers loosened up on defense to obige their faithful followers, only it was the Atlanta Flames who took advantage of it to score four goals in the last 10 minutes en route to a 6-5 decision.

"I think we blew the game because the crowd started chanting for a sixth goal," said Phil Esposito, who gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead with a pair of first-period goals. "We loosened up and tried for it instead of being satisfied with what we had."

Willi Plett scored on a 20-foot wrist shot with 2:18 to play, capping the four-goal comeback. Pat Hickey's short stuff off a power play at 0:54 of the third period had given New York a 5-2 lead, but Eric Vail scored on a slap shot at 4:50 and then on a short wrist shot at 7:59 to bring Atlanta within one. Guy Chouinard then tied the score with a power play goal and, after New York missed numerous chances to regain the lead, Plett put a rebound of a Harold Phillipoff shot past New York goalie Wayne thomas.