The Thrashers needed overtime to finally solve Montreal's penalty kill, with Kovalchuk's goal from the left circle in the extra period giving Atlanta a 4-3 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night.
The Canadiens killed Atlanta's first six power-play opportunities and had not allowed a goal in 33 straight short-handed situations over seven games. The streak ended on Kovalchuk's goal with only 3 seconds remaining in the overtime power play that carried over from the end of the third period.
"That was a tough way for it to end," said Montreal's Hal Gill.
Kovalchuk scored 1:18 into the overtime period.
"When Kovalchuk gets a chance like that, chances are he's going to score," said Montreal's Glen Metropolit. "He's a great player."
The decisive power play was set up by Metropolit's high-sticking minor in the final minute of regulation. The penalty carried over into overtime, giving the Thrashers a 4-on-3 opportunity to open the extra period.
"It was a tough way to end it," said Metropolit, the former Atlanta center. "Our penalty kill has been great."
Montreal coach Jacques Martin said the Canadiens couldn't overcome their nine penalties.
"That was the key," Martin said. "We had a good start and took the lead. The penalties hurt us."
The Thrashers recovered after trailing 2-0 midway through the second period.
"We have to be better on our home ice, and that slow start was not good for us, but we found a way to win," Kovalchuk said.
Johan Hedberg stopped 16 shots to help Atlanta bounce back after losing its last three games of a four-game road trip.
The Thrashers began the night with a narrow edge over Montreal in the battle for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
"They were one point behind us and we knew that," Kovalchuk said. "When you drop a few in a row, teams catch up to you. We need to win a couple now."
Metropolit scored on the power play in the first period for a 1-0 Canadiens lead.
Kostitsyn pushed the lead to 2-0 with his first of two goals in the second period.
The Thrashers shook off their scoring drought with three goals in the final 11:02 of the second period. Schubert ended Montreal goalie Carey Price's shutout bid with a goal and then added an assist on Armstrong's put-back less than 3 minutes later.
"It was nice to get that first goal and help pump the team up," Schubert said.
Kostitsyn, who had only four goals in his first 29 games, added his second goal of the period on his shot from the right circle. Antropov answered for Atlanta for a 3-3 tie entering the third period.
The reported attendance at Philips Arena was 16,616.
Tobias Enstrom had two assists for Atlanta. ... Montreal D Marc-Andre Bergeron left after he suffered a cut when hit on his face by a puck early in the second period. ... The Canadiens managed only four shots on goal in the second period, five shots in the third and overall were outshot 34-19. ... Price stopped 31 shots.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Philips Arena Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Referees: Bill McCreary, David Banfield Linesmen: Pierre Racicot, Anthony Sericolo
Attendance: 16,616 (89.6% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Glen Metropolit (7)
(Power Play) Assists: Scott Gomez, Jaroslav Spacek
Andrei Kostitsyn (5)
Christoph Schubert (2)
Assists: Pavel Kubina, Colby Armstrong
Colby Armstrong (6)
Assists: Evander Kane, Christoph Schubert
Andrei Kostitsyn (6)
Assists: Tomas Plekanec, Marc-Andre Bergeron