Late score helps Thrashers tie Blues

ATLANTA (AP) -- On a night when Dany Heatley returned to the
Thrashers, a lesser-known teammate made sure Atlanta had reason to

Jeff Cowan scored with 2:24 left in regulation and the Thrashers
managed a 1-1 tie with the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

When Cowan scored, Heatley led the celebration from the bench.
With a gap-toothed smile, he tapped his stick on the boards and
patted teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on the helmet.

Heatley was playing for the first time since a Sept. 29 car
wreck killed teammate Dan Snyder.

"He handled it real well," Cowan said. "That's a lot of
pressure coming back from the tragedy that happened."

Heatley was driving the car that crashed, requiring knee surgery
that was expected to keep him out most of the season. But he made a
remarkably quick recovery, returning one day shy of four months
since the crash.

"Welcome Back Dany," read a large banner placed behind one of
the goals.

The Blues broke a scoreless tie at 5:17 of the third period when
Scott Mellanby scored his 11th goal. He fanned on a pass across the
crease from Doug Weight, but the puck caught Mellanby's right skate
and went in.

Despite protests from Thrashers goalie Pasi Nurminen, the
referee immediately ruled that Mellanby didn't intentionally try to
kick the puck in the net.

The Thrashers earned a point when Cowan managed to knock in the
puck during a scrum in front of the St. Louis net.

"I was just looking for the loose puck and was determined to
knock it in," said Cowan, who has eight goals. "I just poked at
it, and it went in."

Heatley started and played nearly 23 minutes. He fit right in,
managing some of Atlanta's best scoring chances. But four shots
were turned away by Blues goalie Reinhard Divis -- including one
especially dazzling save -- and another good opportunity slipped
away when Heatley fired over the net.

"I felt pretty good overall, just a little rusty here and
there," Heatley said. "The timing may have been a bit off, but as
the game went on, I felt pretty good."

Like the rest of the team, Heatley took the ice wearing a patch
with Snyder's number, 37, just above his heart. He also talked with
Snyder's parents before the game.

"I think about him all the time," said Heatley, who still
doesn't know if he'll face criminal charges in the wreck.

The Thrashers snapped a two-game losing streak but they still
have only two wins in their last 15 games. St. Louis ended a
season-high three-game skid.

"We can't be happy with a tie," Keith Tkachuk said. "To get a
point is fine, but with three minutes left we can't be scored on."

Nurminen made several big saves to keep the Thrashers in the
game. He also got help from the posts -- Steve Martins had a
short-handed breakaway in the second period, but his shot deflected
off the crossbar after clearing Nurminen's shoulder.

"They have a lot of skillful players, so you can't challenge
them too much in front of the net," said Nurminen, who made 30

Early in the second period, a physical game turned downright
nasty. St. Louis' Dallas Drake blind-sided Serge Aubin with a
vicious -- but clean -- hit. The Atlanta player tumbled to the ice,
while teammate Ronald Petrovicky immediately challenged Blake to a
fight that left the Blues wing with a bloodied face.

The injury-plagued Thrashers were clearly protective of Aubin,
who was playing for the first time in more than a month after
recovering from a strained neck. He went to the locker room after
Blake's hit, but soon returned to the ice.

Pavol Demitra wasn't so fortunate. The Blues center sustained a
hip pointer in the first period and tried to play in the second,
but he lasted only a minute before sitting out the rest of the

In the third period, Drake was bleeding again after winding up
inside the Atlanta goal. He apparently struck the post after
tumbling over Aubin, of all people, while charging toward the net.

"It was a feisty game," Tkachuk said.

Game notes
Aubin was activated after missing 16 games with a strained
neck. He had 16 points in 35 games before getting hurt Dec. 20 at
Pittsburgh. ... St. Louis has scored only eight goals in its last
six games. ... Atlanta RW J.P. Vigier returned after missing three
games with a fractured cheekbone. He wore a full facemask. ... St.
Louis had two goals waved off because the whistle had blown before
the puck went in. ... Divis is 3-0-1 this season.