<
>

Kovalchuk's three PP goals help Thrashers stay hot

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Almost everything has been working early in
the season for the Atlanta Thrashers except for their power play.
Monday night they got that going, too.

The Thrashers set a franchise record with five power-play goals,
including three by Ilya Kovalchuk, as they continued the best start
in franchise history with a 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers.

"The last couple of games we've struggled on the power play, so
it was nice to have it be such a big part of the win tonight,"
said captain Scott Mellanby, who scored Atlanta's only goal at even
strength.

Atlanta finished 5-for-7 on the power play. The Thrashers had
been 4-for-31 with the man advantage in their previous six games.

The previous franchise record for power-play goals in a game was
four, which the Thrashers had done seven times.

"Sometimes we try to do too much [on the power play],"
Kovalchuk said. "We just have to throw pucks at the net and good
things will happen."

Atlanta, 7-1-1, has 15 points, the most ever for the Thrashers
in October.

"I'm pleased with how everything is going so far," said Marian
Hossa, who also had a power-play goal for Atlanta. "But it's only
nine or 10 games. We've got a lot of games in front of us."

Steve Rucchi had the fifth power-play score for the Thrashers
with 42 seconds left in the third period. Vyacheslav Kozlov had
four assists.

Florida, which entered the game first in the league in
power-play efficiency at 27.9, was 0-for-6.

"I give them credit, but I think we gave them some goals,"
said Panthers captain Olli Jokinen. "We've got to get better on
the PK. Five-on-five it was a pretty even game."

Joel Kwiatkowski, Bryan Allen and Jozef Stumpel scored for
Florida, which lost at home for the first time in five games.

Atlanta is 3-0 against Florida this season. The Thrashers beat
the Panthers 4-2 at Atlanta on Saturday night. Atlanta was 1-for-8
on the power play in that game.

"Some nights are like tonight," Hossa said. "The last time we
played them, they played awesome PK. The special teams were working
for us tonight."

Kari Lehtonen, who has started every game for Atlanta, made 25
saves.

Florida goalie Alex Auld (3-3-1) gave up five goals on 19 shots
before being pulled after the second period with the Panthers
trailing 5-2. Ed Belfour stopped seven of eight shots in the third.

Atlanta trailed 2-0 before Kovalchuk scored his first goal with
2:05 left in the first period on a one-timer from the slot.

"That was a huge goal," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said.
"Getting back between the first and second period, you could hear
the players. We didn't have to say anything. I knew they'd be
better."

The Thrashers then took advantage of a 5-on-3 to score twice in
36 seconds in the second.

Hossa tied the game at 2 with his sixth goal in four games when
he took a pass across the crease from Mellanby. Kovalchuk then
stopped a clearing attempt by Florida in the slot and beat Auld
with a wrist shot just under the crossbar.

After Mellanby scored on a breakaway by taking a loose puck
coming out of the penalty box, Kovalchuk completed his hat trick
when he took a feed from Kozlov inside the blue line, skated in and
beat Auld to the glove side.

It was Kovalchuk's fifth goal in the last four games after he
went scoreless in the first five. Kovalchuk had 52 goals last
season.

"Kovi is the type of scorer who even though he can go a few
games without scoring, he can get his numbers back where they
should be pretty quickly," Hartley said.

Florida took a 2-0 lead with two goals in 23 seconds apart in
the first period.

Kwiatkowski, a defenseman moved to forward because of injuries,
opened the scoring when he tipped in Steve Montador's slap shot
from the point.

Allen then scored on a 3-on-2 rush when he took Jokinen's
cross-ice pass and beat Lehtonen on the short side.

"That was probably 20 of our best minutes of the year," Auld
said of the first period. "I thought we were playing really well.
They got that five-on-three and the momentum changed in their
favor."

Game notes
Florida RW Todd Bertuzzi missed his third consecutive game
because of back spasms. ... This was Kovalchuk s fifth career hat
trick, his first since Jan. 6, 2006 at Pittsburgh. ... Atlanta's
previous mark for most points in October was 13, set in 2003 when
the Thrashers went 5-3-2-1. ... This was the first game of
Atlanta's season-long five-game road trip. The Thrashers play at
Carolina Wednesday, followed by games at Philadelphia, Buffalo and
Toronto.