Final

Series (Game 2 of 8)

Winnipeg leads 6-2

Game 1: Saturday, October 7th
Panthers0Final
Jets6
Game 2: Saturday, October 21st
Panthers2Final
Jets4
Game 3: Monday, October 23rd
Jets6Final
Panthers3
Game 4: Saturday, November 25th
Panthers0Final
Jets1
Game 5: Saturday, December 2nd
Jets3Final
Panthers1
Game 6: Tuesday, March 6th
Panthers2Final
Jets4
Game 7: Saturday, March 10th
Jets2Final
Panthers3
Game 8: Wednesday, March 28th
Jets2Final
SO
Panthers3

Panthers 2

(4-4-1, 9 pts)

Jets 4

(6-1-1, 13 pts)

7:00 PM ET, October 21, 2006

Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

1 2 3 T
FLA 0 1 12
WPG 0 2 24

K. Lehtonen (Jets - G): Saves: 18, Save Pct.: .900

M. Hossa (Jets - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

N. Havelid (Jets - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

Thrashers keep up best start in franchise history

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Thrashers were determined to avoid another poor start.

No worries so far.

Marian Hossa scored two more goals, Ilya Kovalchuk finally got one in regulation and the Thrashers kept up the best start in franchise history, beating the Florida Panthers 4-2 Saturday night.

Elias Says
Marian Hossa
Hossa
Atlanta's Marian Hossa scored two goals in the Thrashers' 4-2 win over the Panthers. Hossa has 29 multiple-goal games over the last four NHL seasons (2002-03 to date), eight more than any other player has posted over the same span. Rounding out the top five are Jonathan Cheechoo (21), Ilya Kovalchuk (21), Olli Jokinen (20) and Dany Heatley (19).

• For more Elias Says, click here.

J.P. Vigier added a rare goal and Kari Lehtonen turned aside 18 shots in the Thrashers' win, their sixth in the first eight games.

Atlanta has picked up 13 of a possible 16 points, with its only regulation loss coming on a last-second goal by defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina.

Quite a contrast to last season, when the Thrashers started 4-9-1 and wound missing their first trip to the playoffs by a mere two points.

"When you're front-runners, it's a little bit easier," coach Bob Hartley said. "These points in October are worth just as much as those points in April. And we found out last year that those points in April are real tough to get. I'm not saying it's easier in October, but it's a little easier to breathe. You've got a little more to build on at this time of year."

Kovalchuk, whose lone goal coming into the night had been an overtime winner, finally got one in regulation at 1:45 of the third to put the Thrashers ahead 3-1. Last season's 52-goal scorer appeared to get another with 3 seconds remaining on an empty-netter, assisted by Hossa.

"He got two goals," Hossa said afterward, believing the goal belonged to Kovalchuk. "That's good for the team."

But Hossa wound up getting credit for his team-leading ninth goal because Florida's Olli Jokinen threw his stick at the puck in disgust as the Atlanta player broke in on the unguarded net, just before he passed off to Kovalchuk.

"The confidence is so important," Hossa said. "We are on kind of a roll."

Hossa broke a scoreless tie 3½ minutes into the second after being awarded a penalty shot. He set up the play by stealing the puck just inside the blue line and getting hooked from behind by Ruslan Salei.

With another crack at Alex Auld, Hossa drifted leisurely to his right and fired the puck past the goalie's right pad after luring him across the crease. It was the second penalty-shot score of Hossa's career.

Kovalchuk scored off a big assist from Bobby Holik, who powered past Bryan Allen along the boards and spotted Kovalchuk drifting alone in between the faceoff circles. He buried the shot past a helpless Auld.

"It's tough to come back against a team like that," said Joe Nieuwendyk, who scored Florida's second goal. "They are playing extremely well."

While Hossa and Kovalchuk are expected to score for the Thrashers, their other goal came from an unlikely source.

With the checking line on just a minute after Hossa's penalty shot, Eric Boulton picked off the puck at center ice and bulled his way toward the net. Auld stopped the shot, but fell over backward without controlling the rebound. Vigier knocked the puck under Auld's right leg to make it 2-0.

It was Vigier's first point of the season, much less goal.

Chris Gratton got the Panthers back in it, scoring with 1:43 left in the period after Juraj Kolnik hustled for a puck sliding wide of the net and flipped it to his teammate all alone in front of the net.

In the third, just seconds after Florida clanked one off the post, Allen fired a slap shot from the point that ricocheted perfectly off the boards behind the net to Stephen Weiss at the opposite post.

He redirected the puck to Nieuwendyk, who one-timed it past Lehtonen for his third goal of the season.

But Lehtonen, who has started every game for the Thrashers after getting hurt last season in the season opener, made all the saves that counted. It didn't hurt that Florida put a couple of shots off the post.

"He just keeps dominating for us," Hossa said.

Game notes


Florida RW Todd Bertuzzi missed his second straight game because of back spasms. ... Thrashers D Steve McCarthy took a shot off his left arm less than 2 minutes into the game and hobbled to the bench, but quickly returned after receiving treatment in the tunnel. ... Atlanta played the 500th game in team history.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES