<
>

Thrashers shut out Blues

ATLANTA (AP) -- Kari Lehtonen picked a good night for his first
shutout of the season.

Lehtonen made a career-best 37 saves in his second NHL shutout
and the Thrashers beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0 Friday night for
their franchise-record tying fourth straight victory. Atlanta has
only won three games when scoring two goals or fewer.

The Thrashers, who had averaged five goals in their previous six
games, usually count on their offense. Lehtonen now provides them
with a strong defensive presence as he has allowed an average of
2.45 goals per game during the winning streak.

Lehtonen, who injured his groin in the first game of the season,
improved to 5-2.

"He stole the show," St. Louis goalie Curtis Sanford said.

Sanford made 22 saves for the Blues.

"It was probably was one of his best games of the year," St.
Louis coach Mike Kitchen said.

The Blues outshot the Thrashers, but Lehtonen blocked every
attempt.

"He played terrific," Kitchen said. "We had all kinds of
chances in the second and third."

St. Louis had only six shots in the first period but outshot the
Thrashers 19-6 in the second period.

"In the second period, they started to shoot a lot," Lehtonen
said. "It started to build my confidence and it kind of helped me
in the third period, just to keep going and relaxing."

The Thrashers also had two four-game winning streaks early in
the 2003-04 season.

"The best part of tonight's game is that we picked up two
points despite playing our worst game in the last two months,"
Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "We were not sharp. ... Those
two points can go in Kari Lehtonen's column."

St. Louis lost its fifth in a row and has managed a total of two
goals in the last four defeats.

"We're just not being able to find the back of the net,"
Kitchen said. "That's what happens when you're pushing and you're
pressing. ... We need to get a break along the line here."

Patrik Stefan gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead that stood up from the
first period until the third when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his
NHL-leading 34th goal with 5:39 left on a power play.

Kovalchuk's goal snapped an 0-for-6 power-play skid.

"It was a big relief," Lehtonen said. "It's hard to play when
you're leading by just one goal."

After the Thrashers opened 3-8 in October, they are 19-10-6 and
have won 12 of 17 to move into seventh place in the Eastern
Conference.

With Lehtonen and backup Mike Dunham dressed for the game, the
Thrashers had their top two goalies available for the first time
since the season opener. Dunham, activated from the injured list on
Thursday, hasn't played since hurting his groin on Nov. 12.

"We went so long looking for the NHL goalie we were
expecting," Hartley said of Lehtonen. "Now we have him."

Stefan scored about 7 minutes in when he put in a rebound of
Slava Kozlov's shot for his sixth goal. Jaroslav Modry and Greg
DeVries set up Kovalchuk.

Marian Hossa's penalty shot was blocked by Blues goalie Curtis
Sanford in the first period. Hossa was awarded the shot after he
was hooked from behind by Kevin Dallman on a breakaway.

The Blues were held to only six shots in the first period before
recording a season-high 19 in the second period. But they couldn't
solve Lehtonen.

Atlanta had six shots in the middle period and only one in the
first 10 minutes of the third.

The Thrashers beat Florida 2-1 on Dec. 17 and won 1-0 at New
Jersey on Dec. 23 in their only other victories in which they
didn't score more than two goals.

St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer dislocated his shoulder during
a collision with Atlanta's Karl Stewart in the second period and
didn't return.

Game notes
The Blues had an 11-game losing streak from Oct. 20-Nov.
12. ... The Thrashers activated LW Brad Larsen, who had been out
with a groin injury, and assigned him to Chicago of the AHL. ...
The Blues had four penalty kills in the first period. ... DeVries
earned his 100th career assist.