TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Mathieu Darche fought hard near the net, and the result was a rare goal.
Darche, a veteran minor leaguer, hadn't scored an NHL goal since Nov. 10, 2001. This was his 20th NHL game since the his first NHL goal six years ago when he was with Columbus.
"It was nice to see him get a reward," said Chris Gratton, who is the center of the Lightning's third line with Darche and Michel Ouellet. "He's been working real hard. He's always around that net, and if he continues to do that, the pucks are going to follow him into the crease area and he's going to get even more goals."
"We won't score pretty goals like Marty [St. Louis] and Vinny [Lecavalier] do, we won't zig-zag, but we'll tire them out," Darche said.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Brett Sterling scored for the defending Southeast Division champion Thrashers (1-7-0), who are winless in four road games. Johan Hedberg allowed five goals on 24 shots before being pulled after two periods.
"We hung Moose out to dry a little bit," Thrashers general manager and interim coach Don Waddell said.
After Lecavalier's breakaway goal at 5:36 of the second make it 3-1, the Lightning broke the game open late in the period on goals by St. Louis (18:04), during a power play, and Darche (18:43).
Atlanta was lucky to trail 2-1 after the first, a period where the Thrashers were outshot 17-2.
Tampa Bay, which had the first nine shots, took a 1-0 lead when Prospal scored on the rebound of his own shot at 5:10 of the first.
Kovalchuk tied it at 1-all with a breakaway goal with 5:41 left in the first. The high-scoring forward had just one goal in his nine previous games against Tampa Bay. Kovalchuk's goal also snapped Atlanta's road goal-less streak at 145 minutes, 21 seconds.
Gratton's goal at 18:54 gave the Lightning a 2-1 advantage after the first.
"We almost weathered the storm there and gave up a bad goal at the end of the first period," Waddell said.
Prospal scored his seventh goal of the season during a power play in the third. Sterling scored his first NHL goal in the final period.
"He's playing honest, and good things are happening," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said of Prospal, who is off to the best offensive start in his career.
Tampa Bay D Dan Boyle (wrist surgery) is ready to resume practicing this coming week and could return to the lineup shortly. "He's close," Tortorella said. "We got a real good report from the doctor." ... Atlanta has been outscored 21-4 on the road this season. ... The Thrashers are 1-1 since Waddell became the interim coach last Wednesday when coach Bob Hartley was fired. ... Prospal has 15 goals and 45 points in 38 games against the Thrashers.