Thrashers swipe Pens with Kovalchuk hat trick
Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
ATLANTA - Ilya Kovalchuk put up his second hat trick of the season for Atlanta, scoring his third goal into an empty net with 44 seconds left to clinch a 6-4 victory over visiting Pittsburgh.
The Thrashers built a 5-0 lead through two periods before the Penguins came alive, scoring four times to give themselves a chance in the closing minutes.
But, after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Kovalchuk lingered at center ice, took a pass from Marc Savard along the boards, and raced the other way to score his 30th goal into the unguarded net.
Kovalchuk, who missed all of training camp and the first three games in a contract dispute, came into night trailing Philadelphia's Simon Gagne by one goal for the league lead. Gagne scored his 29th in the Flyers' 3-1 victory at Washington.
Sidney Crosby picked up one assist but largely had a forgettable night for the Penguins. The 18-year-old center was twice penalized for slashing, drew derisive chants from the crowd and was taunted by Kovalchuk after the Thrashers star scored his second goal.
The Penguins nearly got the last laugh. John LeClair, Michel Ouellet, Colby Armstrong and Mark Recchi scored for Pittsburgh in the first 15:42 of the third - the last three goals coming on rebounds given up by goalie Kari Lehtonen while Atlanta was short-handed.
The Thrashers knocked out Penguins goalie Jocelyn Thibault with three goals on their first nine shots, then held on desperately for their third win in four games.
Kovalchuk scored just 1:28 into the game off a faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone. Marc Savard got the puck to the left of Thibault, lured the goalie out of position and passed across to Kovalchuk, who split the legs of Ric Jackman with a shot into the open net at 1:28.
Peter Forsberg isn't sure what's more impressive: the way the Philadelphia Flyers are piling up points on the road, or the rate at which Simon Gagne is scoring goals.
Gagne and Forsberg each had a goal and an assist, and Philadelphia stretched its road-point streak to 14 games with a victory over Washington.
"We find a way to win every single game almost," Forsberg said. "It's the sign of a great team. ... Good teams find a way to win on the road and win close games."
Mike Rathje also scored for the Flyers, who improved to 7-0-1 on their 11-game road trip. Their only loss in that stretch was a shootout defeat last Saturday in Washington.
Philadelphia, which beat the New York Rangers on Thursday, has won three straight and eight of 10. With points in their next two road games, the Flyers would tie the team mark set in 1979-80.
Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom scored a power-play goal and assisted on another, leading the visiting Red Wings to a victory against Nashville.
It marked the first time this season that the Predators lost in regulation to a Central Division team. The Red Wings are 13-1 against teams in their division.
Vernon Fiddler gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with his third goal in two games. During a power play, Fiddler tapped in the rebound of Kimmo Timonen's shot to beat Manny Legace on his stick side at 13:55 of the first period.
It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Red Wings in six games. They had killed off 22 straight penalties before Fiddler's goal.
Cory Stillman scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period to lead Carolina past the visiting New York Islanders.
Kevyn Adams, Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams also scored for the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who won the last three games of a four-game homestand.
Eric Godard scored for the Islanders, but probably gained more attention for a first-period hit on Williams that raised the ire of both the Hurricanes and their fans. It led to some testy exchanges between the teams, who will meet again today in New York.
Antti Miettinen scored in the fourth round of the shootout to send host Dallas to a victory over Anaheim.
After both teams missed in the first round, Jussi Jokinen connected in the second for Dallas. Anaheim's Andy McDonald matched that goal in the third and final round of regulation.
Tony Amonte scored the only goal and Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for his NHL-leading sixth shutout as host Calgary beat Toronto.
Amonte's 11th goal of the season came on a deflection at 4:24 of the second period on a harmless-looking play.
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