UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Atlanta Thrashers turned desperation into a well-earned two points.
The Thrashers (9-14-3) are only one point ahead of last-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
"We can't get any more desperate than this," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "Our hope lies in our despair."
Bryan Little, Eric Boulton, Eric Perrin and Chris Thorburn also scored for Atlanta, which has beaten the Islanders twice this season. Kovalchuk also had two assists as the Thrashers got out of an 0-4-1 skid.
Johan Hedberg stopped 28 shots for his first win since the Thrashers' last victory over Toronto on Nov. 25.
"We've been struggling," Hedberg said. "Tonight, it's two points. We had more determination."
"I felt great coming in," MacDonald said. "It was one of those games where the harder you worked, the worse it got."
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead 49 seconds in during a power play. Guerin took a cross-ice pass from Mark Streit on the left side and one-timed a shot past Hedberg's short side.
Little tied it at 17:44 when he took the puck at the top of the crease and quickly fired it past MacDonald.
Atlanta scored four goals on four shots in a span that bridged the second and third periods.
The Thrashers went ahead 2-1 at 10:04 of the second when Kovalchuk broke down the right side alone and got a wrist shot past MacDonald for his ninth goal.
"It doesn't matter who scored," Kovalchuk said. "We played a full 60 minutes."
MacDonald had nothing but praise for Kovalchuk.
"He can pretty much do whatever he wants with the puck," he said.
The Thrashers increased their lead to 3-1 on a delayed penalty call when Boulton tipped Joey Crabb's centering pass past MacDonald.
Perrin added on at 7:19 of the third, on the back end of a four-minute power play, when he sent a shot during a scramble into the net.
"We didn't get many shots tonight," Perrin said of the 17 overall. "But we did get a lot of quality chances, and we capitalized."
Thorburn added his third goal of the season at 11:03.
"I think they had three scoring chances in the third period," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said, "and they scored on two of them."
The Islanders recalled forward Blake Comeau from Bridgeport (AHL) and sent forward Jeff Tambellini there for a conditioning stint. ... Atlanta has given up at least four goals in 14 games this season, and is 2-12 in those contests. ... With a roughing minor in the first period, Islanders defenseman Andy Sutton has 901 career penalty minutes.