Series (Game 2 of 4)

Pittsburgh leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 16th
Game 2: Friday, November 22nd
Game 3: Monday, December 30th
Game 4: Friday, January 3rd

Penguins 3

(8-5-3, 22 pts)

Jets 1

(5-12-1, 12 pts)

7:30 PM ET, November 22, 2002

Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

1 2 3 T
PIT 1 0 23
WPG 0 1 01

J. Hedberg (Penguins - G): Saves: 36, Save Pct.: .973

P. Rheaume (Jets - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

M. Weaver (Jets - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Lemieux raises league-leading point total to 38

ATLANTA (AP) -- Johan Hedberg claims it's not as easy as it appears.

Johan Hedberg

Hedberg had 36 saves and Alexei Kovalev scored the go-ahead goal with 5:51 left as Pittsburgh beat Atlanta 3-1 Friday night, the Penguins' 14th straight victory over the Thrashers.

Wayne Primeau added an empty-netter with 49.5 seconds remaining, and Pittsburgh improved to 14-0 all-time against the Thrashers.

"I can't remember a game against Atlanta where it hasn't been tough, we always have to fight,'' Hedberg said. "I was expecting a tough one.''

The first two goals came with the man advantage, and Mario Lemieux had assists on both, raising his NHL-leading point total to 38. He also has a league-high 24 power-play points.

The Penguins, who snapped a seven-game winless streak, have scored nine of their past 10 goals on the power play.

"We have to take advantage of our chances,'' Lemieux said. "When you have an opportunity like that with only a few minutes left, you have to take advantage of it.''

Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game at 1 late in the second period off an assist from fellow Russian Vyacheslav Kozlov for his team-high 10th goal of the season.

But the Thrashers couldn't overcome an ill-timed penalty by defenseman Andy Sutton, who was called for boarding with 6:25 left.

Pittsburgh patiently passed the puck around before Kovalev beat Pasi Nurminen with a one-timer from just inside the blue line.

After the game, Sutton fumed about the call made by referee Terry Gregson.

"It was a terrible call and the game shouldn't have been decided that way,'' he said. "We were in charge of the game, and we dominated the game. It's a shame the game had to be decided that way.''

Atlanta's loss came in front of new goaltender Byron Dafoe, who signed with the team Wednesday. He sat in the stands with his wife, Kim, and watched his new team lose despite outshooting the Penguins 37-23.

"We played good enough to win this hockey game,'' Thrashers coach Curt Fraser said. "We had a number of opportunities that, for whatever reason, we couldn't finish. We've got to find a way to bury some of those.''

It's the second straight game the Thrashers had the shot advantage, and only the fourth time all season.

But Hedberg was up to the task, constantly stopping point-blank shots.

"They kept battling, battling and battling,'' he said. "They have nothing to lose.''

Jan Hrdina gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period, stuffing in a rebound after Nurminen stopped a shot by Lemieux. Lemieux easily faked his way past Pascal Rheaume and moved in, and Hrdina was unchecked for his eight goal.

Pittsburgh improved to 1-3-2-2 in its past eight games.

"I've always said we've been playing hard, we've been in games, and it was the same situation tonight,'' Penguins coach Rick Kehoe said. "Special teams played big tonight.''

Game notes

The Thrashers assigned F Yuri Butsayev to Chicago of the AHL. ... Dafoe held an autograph session before the game. ... The Penguins scored first for the 13th time in 19 games. ... Pittsburgh C Randy Robitaille, who hasn't scored in three games since returning from a cracked bone in his foot, was a healthy scratch. ... The attendance of 17,375 included a walk-up crowd of 3,500.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press