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Dopita helps Philly continue Southeast dominance

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jiri Dopita was more relieved than excited
after enjoying the best game of his brief NHL career.

Dopita tied a club record with four goals and added an assist as
the Flyers beat the Atlanta Thrashers 7-4 on Tuesday night to take
over undisputed possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
It was the first four-goal game this season in the NHL.

"I'm just happy to help," said Dopita, playing in his first
NHL season after leading his team to five league championships in
the Czech Republic. "It was a lucky game for me today."

Dopita, who had only two goals in his previous 25 games with the
Flyers, said he once scored four in a Czech playoff game.

"It's been hard for me," added the 33-year-old center acquired
from Florida for a second-round draft pick last June. "It's
different here than the European game. There are more checks
here."

John LeClair and Justin Williams each had a goal and two
assists, and Ruslan Fedotenko added a goal and an assist for the
Flyers, who won their fourth straight home game and moved past the
idle New York Rangers into the top spot in the division for the
first time this season.

Dopita's four goals tied a franchise record reached 14 previous
times, most recently by LeClair against Vancouver in 1998.

"Four goal games do not come very often," said Philadelphia
coach Bill Barber. "This could be a turning point for Dopita as
far as confidence goes. Even if you have confidence and have
success, you still need confidence to play. There is a big
adjustment here."

Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals and Lubos Bartecko and Patrik
Stefan added the others for the Thrashers, who dropped their fifth
straight game. Atlanta is winless in nine games (0-8-1) against
Atlantic Division teams.

"Our guys were in the defensive zone all night," said Atlanta
coach Curt Fraser. "The Flyers are big and fast. They are all
veterans and we could not make any mistakes, none, no turnovers."

Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher had 22 saves. Eric
Weinrich and Donald Brashear each added two assists for the Flyers,
who enjoyed their highest offensive outburst of the season.

Hnat Domenichelli and Frantisek Kaberle had two assists each for
Atlanta.

The Thrashers took a 1-0 lead on Kovalchuk's power play goal at
6:13 of the first period. Kovalchuk, the NHL's leading rookie goal
scorer with 19, put in a rebound of a shot by Dany Heatley, who
leads the league's rookies with 19 assists. Kovalchuk also scored
on a breakaway at 10:44 of the third period.

The Flyers came back to go ahead 3-1 in the next 10 minutes.
Williams took the puck away from Ray Ferraro and fed LeClair at
8:06, then put back his own shot at 12:19. Dopita scored his first
goal on a one-timer at 16:55 after Atlanta's Mike Weaver lost the
puck behind the net.

Bartecko's wrist shot from the slot brought Atlanta within 3-2
at 3:39 of the second period. Dopita then tipped in a hard shot by
LeClair at 6:04, chasing Thrashers' goaltender Milan Hnilicka, who
allowed four goals on 12 shots.

Dopita got his third goal 2:40 later, scoring on a scramble in
front of the goal. He added his fourth from the right slot on a
power play at 8:32 of the third period after taking a pass from
Keith Primeau. Fedotenko got his 10th goal midway through the final
period.

Stefan scored with 1:07 left when his shot from high in the slot
bounced off Boucher's glove into the net.

Philadelphia is unbeaten in 14 games (13-0-1) against Southeast
Division teams.

Game notes
Ferraro, Atlanta's captain, played in his 1,219th game,
tying him for 45th on the NHL career list with Eric Nesterenko. ...
Philadelphia defenseman Eric Desjardins had an assist in his first
appearance since breaking his left index finger at Atlanta 13 games
ago. ... Simon Gagne, who leads the Flyers with 17 goals, returned
after missing two games with a bruised left shoulder. ...
Philadelphia's Mark Recchi had an apparent goal disallowed at 7:35
of the first period when officials ruled that he kicked in the puck
with his skate. ... The Flyers have a nine-game unbeaten streak
against Atlanta (7-0-2) and have never lost to the Thrashers at
home (3-0-2).