for this game

Thrashers end five-game slide, lose Kovalchuk

Jan 31, 2008 - 6:05 AM
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Ilya Kovalchuk finally found the back of the net. Unfortunately for the Atlanta Thrashers, it may be a while before he does it again.

Kovalchuk snapped a five-game goalless streak with a power-play tally in the first period before leaving with a knee injury in the second as the Thrashers skated to a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Captain Bobby Holik, Eric Perrin and Jim Slater also scored and Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves for Atlanta, which halted a five-game skid.

"(Kovalchuk's) been our horse all year and scored that big second goal for us," Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. "Then we had to play the rest of the game without him. I thought our guys did a good job."

The past two weeks have been frustrating for Atlanta's All-Star left wing, who had not scored since the last time these clubs met on January 12.

The former Maurice Richard Trophy winner also was shut out in Sunday's All-Star Game as San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov robbed him twice. After one of those saves, Kovalchuk playfully fell to the ice in disbelief.

The Russian's long drought finally ended at 16:42 of the first period.

With Jeff Taffe in the penalty box after drawing a double-minor for high-sticking, Atlanta defenseman Steve McCarthy fed Kovalchuk with a cross-ice pass just inside the blue line. Kovalchuk buried a one-timer from above the left faceoff circle, beating netminder Ty Conklin to the glove side for his 38th goal of the season.

Obviously relieved, Kovalchuk bent one knee up in the air before pumping his fist by the Thrashers' bench after the tally.

In the second period, Kovalchuk once again was sprawled out on the ice. But this time, it was not in a playful manner.

Jarkko Ruutu's right knee collided with the superstar's right knee while Pittsburgh's left wing was finishing a check by the Thrashers' bench. While Kovalchuk fell to the ice in pain, McCarthy immediately attacked Ruutu, landing numerous punches to the back of the Finn's head.

"I think anybody (would come to Kovalchuk's defense)," said McCarthy, whose hand was bloodied in the fracas. "It's one of your best players. You can't take it."

Waddell was pleased with the actions of McCarthy, who returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with an oblique strain.

"I congratulated him after the game because I think our team arose from that," he said. "When one of your best players gets hit like that and a player jumps in like that, that's a penalty we'll kill all day. When you stick up for your teammate, we never have a problem with those kinds of penalties."

Kovalchuk, who limped to the locker room favoring his right knee, returned for a shift on the power play with less than five minutes left in the second period but left the game for good following his shift. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

"He's one of your best players," McCarthy said. "When he can't come back, he's hurting."

Ruutu received a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct for his hit on Kovalchuk. He was not concerned about a possible suspension.

"There's no reason to be suspended for the hit," Ruutu said. "I went to finish my check, he ducked away and I barely hit him. I didn't change direction. I just went in for a hit."

Ruutu also was given a fighting major despite serving only as McCarthy's punching bag.

"I got five minutes for fighting and I didn't even throw a punch," Ruutu said incredulously. "I had my gloves on the whole time."

Waddell will let the NHL decide whether Ruutu deserves further punishment.

"The league looks at all these situations, and I'm sure they've looked at it already 100 times," Waddell said. "We'll leave that to the league. The officials made the right call on the ice, and from here, it's out of our hands."

The Thrashers got on the board with a bizarre goal seven minutes into the contest.

Holik fanned on a shot from the slot after receiving a pass from behind the net by Chris Thorburn. The veteran recovered the puck, however, and unleashed a backhander that caromed off the left goalpost, hit a sprawled Conklin and entered the net at 7:08 for a 1-0 lead.

Perrin scored a shorthanded goal 92 seconds into the third period to give Atlanta a 3-0 cushion. After beating All-Star defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the puck in the neutral zone, Perrin beat Conklin high to the glove side on a breakaway for his ninth of the season.

Perrin admitted losing Kovalchuk inspired him.

"You see a guy like that go down and you need to step up your game," he said. "When you lose a guy who has 38 goals, it's time for us to take our game to the next level."

Just over two minutes later, Slater scored for the first time in nearly a year, beating Conklin with a wraparound attempt at the left post at 3:46.

The goal was the last shot faced by Conklin, who finished with 16 saves. Dany Sabourin came on and turned aside all seven shots he faced for Pittsburgh, which fell to 2-2-1 since captain Sidney Crosby suffered a sprained ankle against Florida on January 18. The Penguins also lost that contest to the Panthers.

"The score doesn't indicate the game," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought it was really good. We battled hard."

The Penguins ended Lehtonen's shutout bid at 8:42, when blue-liner Ryan Whitney scored his ninth goal of the season, converting a cross-crease pass by Erik Christensen from the right side of the crease.

Nathan Smith failed in his bid for his first career goal with 2:10 remaining in the second period. Originally ruled a goal, the play was overturned after video replay officials determined Smith kicked the puck into the net with his right skate.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PITTSBURGH 0 0 1 1
    ATLANTA 2 0 2 4 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - BOBBY HOLIK 9 (CHRIS THORBURN, ERIC BOULTON) 7:08
    ATL - (PP) ILYA KOVALCHUK 38 (STEVE MCCARTHY, MARIAN HOSSA)
    16:42
    2ND PRD: NONE
    3RD PRD: ATL - (SH) ERIC PERRIN 9 (UNASSISTED) 1:32
    ATL - JIM SLATER 1 (MARK REC

    Jan 30 9:37 PM


  • NHL
    PITTSBURGH 1
    ATLANTA 4
    3RD PRD: PIT - RYAN WHITNEY 9 (ERIK CHRISTENSEN, MAXIME TALBOT) 8:42

    Penguins vs. ThrashersJan 30 9:20 PM


  • NHL
    PITTSBURGH 0
    ATLANTA 4
    3RD PRD: ATL - JIM SLATER 1 (MARK RECCHI) 3:46

    Penguins vs. ThrashersJan 30 9:09 PM


  • NHL
    PITTSBURGH 0
    ATLANTA 3
    3RD PRD: ATL - (SH) ERIC PERRIN 9 (TOBIAS ENSTROM) 1:32

    Penguins vs. ThrashersJan 30 9:06 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PITTSBURGH 0 0 0
    ATLANTA 2 0 2 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - BOBBY HOLIK 9 (CHRIS THORBURN, ERIC BOULTON) 7:08
    ATL - (PP) ILYA KOVALCHUK 38 (STEVE MCCARTHY, MARIAN HOSSA)
    16:42
    2ND PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PIT

    Jan 30 8:45 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PITTSBURGH 0 0
    ATLANTA 2 2 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: ATL - BOBBY HOLIK 9 (CHRIS THORBURN, ERIC BOULTON) 7:08
    ATL - (PP) ILYA KOVALCHUK 38 (STEVE MCCARTHY, MARIAN HOSSA)
    16:42
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PIT 9

    Jan 30 7:43 PM


  • NHL
    PITTSBURGH 0
    ATLANTA 2
    1ST PRD: ATL - (PP) ILYA KOVALCHUK 38 (STEVE MCCARTHY, MARIAN HOSSA)
    16:42

    Penguins vs. ThrashersJan 30 7:38 PM


  • NHL
    PITTSBURGH 0
    ATLANTA 1
    1ST PRD: ATL - BOBBY HOLIK 9 (CHRIS THORBURN, ERIC BOULTON) 7:08

    Penguins vs. ThrashersJan 30 7:19 PM