Series (Game 3 of 4)

Winnipeg leads 3-1

Game 1: Saturday, November 9th
Game 2: Monday, February 17th
Game 3: Saturday, March 15th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 2nd

Sabres 3

(21-34-7, 58 pts)

Jets 5

(24-36-4, 58 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 15, 2003

Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

1 2 3 T
BUF 1 1 13
WPG 0 3 25

I. Kovalchuk (Jets - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

S. Kozlov (Jets - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

D. Heatley (Jets - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Atlanta wins 24th game of the year

ATLANTA (AP) -- Slava Kozlov's goal beat his old team and gave the Atlanta Thrashers a team record for victories.

He was more pleased with the record.

Kozlov scored the go-ahead goal with 4:02 left and Ilya Kovalchuk set a franchise record with his 33rd of the season as Atlanta beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Saturday night.

The Thrashers won their 24th game, breaking the team record set two seasons ago.

"It's a young team," Kozlov said. "We're learning how to win. Tonight was a perfect example."

Kozlov, traded to Atlanta from Buffalo in the offseason, took a pass from Chris Tamer in the slot, then whirled and beat Martin Biron with a quick slap shot. The Thrashers snapped a three-game losing streak and won at home for the first time since beating the Sabres on Feb. 17.

"For me, it was more important to get the two points than to beat Buffalo," Kozlov said.

Dany Heatley, last season's rookie of the year, tied his point total from last season with a goal and an assist. He has 67 points.

Lubos Bartecko also scored, and Marc Savard had an empty-net goal with 7 seconds left.

Buffalo's Taylor Pyatt tied it at 3 with his 10th goal early in the third period, and teammates Alex Kotalik and Tim Connolly also scored. The Sabres are winless in five games (0-2-2-1).

"It's tough," Kotalik said. "We're still playing for pride. We have to take it game by game."

Kovalchuk, a second-year player, broke the season record for goals by skating from his own end into Buffalo's zone, then moving across the ice and putting the puck past Biron. Atlanta goalie Pasi Nurminen got an assist on the goal, his second of the season.

"I felt like Ilya was flying," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "He scored a great goal. That's a highlight goal, and he's going to score many more."

The performance snapped a dismal past 15 games for Kovalchuk, who scored just twice in that span. When the puck went in, he pumped his fists and welcomed the congratulations from teammates.

"It's the 33rd goal, and I broke the Thrashers record," he said, explaining his exuberance. "It was also to take the lead."

Donald Audette scored 32 goals for Atlanta in 2000-01.

The Thrashers, trying to avoid finishing with the worst record in the NHL for the second year in a row, moved into a tie with Buffalo at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

"You can't give up the goals we gave up," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought we totally dominated the second period, but we were behind the eight ball. We had some great opportunities to come back."

James Patrick nearly tied it again moments after Kozlov's goal, taking a pass from Connolly on a two-on-one right in front of Nurminen. But the goalie leaped to his right and just kept the puck out of the net with his stick.

"I didn't know where my blocker was," Nurminen said. "I think it hit my thumb and my stick. I tried to ask if it was in or not, but nobody knew."

A video replay confirmed that the puck never crossed the line.

Game notes
Kozlov nearly scored in the first period when he tried to stuff a rebound by Biron. But video review showed the puck stayed in the crease. ... During the second period, a fan was surprised by a message from her husband, who's overseas in the Armed Forces. A picture of her husband was shown on the scoreboard while his message was read aloud. ... Buffalo fell to 6-8-1-0 against the Thrashers.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press