Ilya Kovalchuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period after Atlanta lost a two-goal lead, and the Thrashers held on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 on Saturday night.
Jussi Jokinen and Ray Whitney scored 70 seconds apart in the third to make it 3-3, yet just when the Hurricanes appeared to have the momentum, Kovalchuk put Atlanta ahead to stay. He caught defenseman Joni Pitkanen on his heels and took a wrist shot near the left circle, and the puck cleanly beat Cam Ward to the glove side.
Kovalchuk had a goal for the third consecutive game to help the Thrashers win for the second time in the past three games. Jim Slater, Rich Peverley and Nik Antropov also scored for Atlanta, and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 29 shots, including a penalty shot by Eric Staal in the second period with the score tied at 1.
Staal had broken clear when Atlanta left wing Slava Kozlov was called for slashing as he tried to knock the puck away from behind. But the penalty shot wasn't even close, with Pavelec easily kicking away Staal's attempt.
Slater then gave the Thrashers the lead when he banked in a rebound off Ward's right leg, and Peverley made it 3-1 when he was in the right place at the right time to corral a pass from Eric Boulton. The puck slipped past Carolina's Tom Kostopoulos, and Peverley only had to redirect it into the net.
But the Hurricanes, still the worst team in the Eastern Conference despite winning four of their previous six games, bounced back thanks to a foolish penalty by Boris Valabik. With Atlanta already on the penalty kill, Valabik was called for roughing after he shoved Staal into the net as Pavelec made a save.
That gave Carolina a 5-on-3 opportunity, and Jokinen took a pass from Staal to make it 3-2. Slightly more than a minute later, with Valabik still in the penalty box, Whitney took a rebound in the slot and scored to tie it at 3.