Final OT

Series (Game 3 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

Jets 3

(10-21-4, 25 pts)

Penguins 2

(15-14-5, 38 pts)

7:30 PM ET, December 30, 2002

Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1 2 3 OT T
WPG 2 0 0 13
PIT 0 1 1 02

M. Kraft (Penguins - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

P. Nurminen (Jets - G): Saves: 35, Save Pct.: .946

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

Atlanta ends 14-game skid vs. Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- When the puck is on Ilya Kovalchuk's stick, all the Atlanta Thrashers need is one shot.

After goaltender Pasi Nurminen stopped all seven shots by the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, Kovalchuk beat Jean-Sebastien Aubin on a breakaway with just 20 seconds to play. That lifted the Thrashers to a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday night, their first win ever against the Penguins.

"I think he's missed maybe one time on a breakaway now in two seasons,'' Atlanta defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist said.

Tjarnqvist kicked the puck ahead to Kovalchuk just inside the Atlanta blue line before the Thrashers' leading scorer skated away from defenseman Ian Moran to score his 21st goal of the season and second career overtime goal.

"When he gets the puck on a breakaway, you usually just count it as a goal,'' teammate Shawn McEachern said. "He's like a Pavel Bure or a Mario Lemieux in that situation. It's almost automatic.''

Kovalchuk's goal ended Atlanta's 14-game losing streak against Pittsburgh and came three days after the Thrashers beat Carolina for the first time.

"We never beat this team before, so it's a happy new year for us right now,'' Kovalchuk said. "We feel good. Every time we would lose by one goal or maybe two, but today we won.''

The Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the first period on the strength of Milan Kraft's first career two-goal game. He scored the second with just 5:53 to play.

Pittsburgh held a 37-26 shots advantage but failed on all seven power plays, including one in overtime.

"Our goaltender made some huge saves, and I was looking for an opportunity to put Kovalchuk on the ice,'' coach Don Waddell said. "With about 45 seconds left, we got him on the ice and that's what he's capable of doing when he gets an opportunity.''

The Thrashers are 2-1 under general manager Waddell, who took over as coach after firing Curt Fraser.

Andy Sutton gave Atlanta the lead at 4:46 of the first period when he took a pass from Per Svartvadet and fired a wrist shot past Aubin for his first career short-handed goal. Svartvadet appeared to be offside on the right wing.

The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead at 17:39 of the first period when Dany Heatley set up in the slot and converted a pass from Kovalchuk on the power play. It was Heatley's 10th goal of the season and second in three games since returning from a groin injury.

"I thought we had a sluggish first period,'' said Pittsburgh coach Rick Kehoe, whose team had won its previous four games. "We picked it up in the second. But give those guys credit -- they have been playing hard the last few games.''

Kraft cut it to 2-1 at 9:51 of the second period when he fired a wrist shot from between the circles past Nurminen for his fourth goal. It also extended his career-high scoring streak to seven games.

Kraft converted Martin Straka's pass from behind the net for the tying goal, but Nurminen's strong play set the stage for Kovalchuk's heroics and the Thrashers' second consecutive road victory.

"We're all competing harder,'' McEachern said. "That 4-on-3 power play in overtime was tough to take, but every time they did get a chance, our goaltender stopped them.''

Game notes

Moran played in his 400th career game, while Kovalchuk played in his 100th. ... Pittsburgh scratched Randy Robitaille, while the Thrashers played without Byron Dafoe (groin), Chris Herperger (flu) and Jeff Cowan (groin). ... Atlanta's Patrik Stefan assisted on Heatley's goal for his 100th career point. ... The Thrashers have allowed just six goals since Waddell took over as coach. ... Pittsburgh was 0-for-7 on the power play.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press