Marc Savard had the biggest game of his career with a goal and
four assists and Ilya Kovalchuk snapped out of an eight-game goal
drought with two goals and three assists as the Thrashers
overwhelmed the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-4 Saturday night.
The NHL's second-highest scoring team had been shut out in a
team-record three consecutive games, but Ronald Petrovicky scored
eight seconds after the opening faceoff to send the Thrashers to
their first victory since they beat Pittsburgh 6-3 Dec. 12.
"Even when we lose three games and don't score, Bob [coach Bob
Hartley] tells us we're still the same team, just keep going, work
hard and make things happen," Thrashers captain Shawn McEachern
said. "Our power play was really going."
Slava Kozlov added two goals and two assists for Atlanta, which
converted three of six power-play chances while beating the
Penguins for the third time in five meetings.
Savard, who has figured in 10 of Atlanta's 16 goals against
Pittsburgh this season, assisted on Atlanta's first three goals. He
scored his 15th goal early in the third period on the power play
and set up Kozlov's power-play goal with 3:39 to play.
"Savard played a great game," Hartley said. "He is one of the
offensive leaders on this team, and we needed a big performance
from many of our leaders."
Kovalchuk, who matched his career high for points in a game, tied Columbus' Rick Nash for the NHL goal-scoring lead with 20. He used his superb wrist shot to beat Pittsburgh goaltender Sebastien Caron twice in an 8:07 span of the second period.
"It's big for us to get him scoring goals because when he
scores, he's happy," Savard said.
Kovalchuk, who never has gone nine games without a goal, had eight shots on Caron and Jean-Sebastien Aubin. Caron was replaced at the start of the third period.
"When I scored, I felt, 'OK, it's over,' " said Kovalchuk,
whose first goal at 10:31 of the second period gave Atlanta a 4-1
lead. "Eight games, it's too many for me."
Goals by Milan Kraft and Martin Strbak 3:11 apart cut the
Thrashers' lead to 4-3, but Kovalchuk's goal with 1:22 left in the
second period effectively ended the comeback.
"We've had a hard time playing against Atlanta recently, but we've just got to learn from that," Pittsburgh defenseman Josef Melichar said. "We have to learn from these games, but it's tough."
Petrovicky's goal came off a pass from Kozlov on a two-on-one
break and was the Thrashers' first goal in 182:32. It was the
earliest goal from the start of the game in Atlanta history and
the quickest by a Pittsburgh opponent.
"That was a great start. That's what we needed," Kovalchuk
said. "Lots of games, we're down two goals to start and it's hard
to come back."
Rico Fata scored his team-leading 10th goal for Pittsburgh in
the third period, and Ryan Malone scored his eighth of the
season in the first period.
"We knew that they weren't scoring in the last couple games,
and they have a lot of confidence against us," Penguins coach Ed
Olczyk said. "We have been a confidence builder for them."
Atlanta F Serge Aubin fell awkwardly into the right-wing
boards late in the second period and left with concussion-like
symptoms. Thrashers D Tomas Kloucek also left in the first period
with a bruised right shoulder. ... Saturday's game began a 10-game
stretch in which Atlanta plays seven times on the road. ... Savard
has points in 18 of his 25 games this season. ... The promotional
game featured a talking bobblehead doll of longtime Penguins'
announcer Mike Lange, and the Penguins drew 13,683, their third
largest crowd this season.