Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison scored 10 seconds apart in the second period, and Roberto Luongo made six of his 27 saves in the last five minutes to lift the Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Thrashers on Saturday night.
"I think we played a lot better than the result indicated," Luongo said. "They didn't have much throughout the whole game except a couple of power plays. We were really playing well, disciplined, within the system, and then a little penalty trouble and they got one."
Morrison also scored 1:44 into the game, and the Canucks led 3-0 before Jon Sim put Atlanta on the board with 6:50 left in the second period. But the Thrashers didn't get a shot the first 12 minutes of the third before rallying after Ilya Kovalchuk converted a 5-on-3 with 5:29 left.
"We held on at the end, it wasn't pretty," Morrison said. "But we played a pretty solid game up until the 5-on-3 and they got that big goal by Kovalchuk and gave them some life."
Trevor Linden had two assists as Vancouver bounced back from an uninspired 3-0 loss to Chicago on Wednesday by beating one of the NHL's best road teams. The Canucks moved into a tie with Calgary and Minnesota atop the Northwest Division.
"It was a big challenge, they've got a great team and we weren't happy with our last game," Morrison said. "We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could bounce back from a mediocre performance."
Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves as the Thrashers split the first two games of their season-high, six-game road trip. Atlanta remained six points ahead of Carolina atop the Southeast Division despite losing for the fourth time in five games.
"They scored a quick goal and we got on our heels," Kovalchuk said. "To give up a 3-zip lead to a team like that is not good. We didn't play our best hockey."
Morrison scored his first goal 1:44 in, ripping a shot from the right circle past Lehtonen's glove and just inside the post. But it could have been a lot worse as Vancouver outshot Atlanta 7-1, hit a pair of posts, and forced Lehtonen to make a huge save off Daniel Sedin in the opening seven minutes.
"That s as good a start as you're going to see from our team, said Morrison.
Things stayed even until Naslund and Morrison broke things open. Naslund's power-play slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Lehtonen through a screen at 9:02. Morrison tipped in Sami Salo's blast from the point on the next shift.
Sim scored his 15th goal of the season on a rebound and Lehtonen kept it close with stellar saves off Linden and Henrik Sedin during a power play in the final minute of the second period. But that was it until Kovalchuk converted a lengthy 5-on-3 power play, hammering a one-timer cleanly past Luongo from the top of the circles for his 32nd goal.
Kovalchuk also came close to tying it with 1:27 left.
"Luongo made a couple big saves and I missed an open net," Kovalchuk said. "I just missed it, not by much. What are you going to do? Tomorrow is a new game."
The Thrashers, who came in with the NHL's third-best road record, fell to 16-10-4 away from home.
"I thought we controlled the whole game, but they came back with the power play and pulling the goalie obviously got some chances at the end," Naslund said.
Forward Eric Belanger, acquired before the game in a trade with Nashville for D Vitaly Vishnevski, is expected to join the team for a game at Edmonton on Sunday. ... Atlanta C Steve Rucchin sat out after being hit in the head Thursday in Colorado. He was replaced in the lineup by Niko Kapanen. ... The Canucks are 7-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season and 16-2-1 over the last two. ... Vancouver forwards Brandon Reid and Brad Moran, recalled from the AHL on Friday, played with Naslund. Moran had one assist.