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Atlanta cashed in on two 3rd period goals and then held off a late Chicago rally to give the Thrashers a 3-2 decision over the Blackhawks Saturday night at the United Center.
Ilya Kovalchuk broke a 1-1 tie at 3:51 of the 3rd period on a breakaway for his 6th goal of the season. Darren Haydar blocked a Hawk pass just inside the Thrashers blue line and it bounced out to center ice where Kovalchuk broke in alone to beat goalie Patrick Lalime.
Four minutes later on a power play, Kovalchuk intercepted a Hawk clearing attempt and fed a pass to Vyacheslav Kozlov all alone in front of the Chicago goal and the veteran tallied his 2nd of the game for a 3-1 lead.
The Hawks pulled Lalime for an extra attacker on a power play with 95 seconds remaining in regulation and Jason Williams took a pass from Robert Lang to blast a 50-foot screen shot past Johan Hedberg to make it 3-2 at 18:51. It was Williams' 4th of the campaign, all on the power play.
The Hawks continued the pressure on the power play but couldn't get the equalizer as they lost their third straight for a 5-6 mark on the season.
Atlanta took the lead midway through the opening period on a 5-on-3 power play with Kozlov tipping a shot by Kovalchuk past Lalime.
The Hawks outshot the Thrashers 12-8 in the 1st period and 31-22 for the game and had the better scoring opportunities. Hedberg was aided by his defense, which blocked 19 other shots.
In the 2nd period, the Hawks tied the game on a power play at 5:08 with the two #1 draft picks shining on the goal. Toews got a pass across to Williams who spotted Kane at the right face-off circle and the 18 year-old fired a 25-footer on the short side for his 4th goal.
Toews got an assist to stretch his point streak to 9, earning a point in every game he has played.
Hedberg kept his team in the game with saves on Kane and Lang later in the period. Both Hawk players led their squad with five shots a piece.
Atlanta is now 3-2 in their last five games after losing their first four.
The Hawks will head on the road for the next two games, Wednesday in Dallas and Saturday in St. Louis, before returning to the United Center next Sunday against Nashville to begin a four-game homestand.
AP Notes: Chicago LW Dave Koci missed his first game on injured reserve with a broken nose. Blackhawks D Andrei Zyuzin sat out with a pulled hip muscle. ... Chicago recalled C Dave Bolland from Rockford of the AHL for Saturday's game. ... Atlanta G Kari Lehtonen missed his fourth game with a groin strain. ... Chicago's healthy scratches were LW Sergei Sansonov and D Danny Richmond. Atlanta's were D Steve McCarthy, LW Pascal Dupuis and LW Brett Sterling.
Left Wing Iyla Kovalchuk: Two wins out of three games... I think we’re in pretty good shape. I think we should bring that much (energy) every game, especially if we want to turn the season our way. We need to work hard every night and this was unbelievable tonight.
"We’re all a little bit frustrated. We lose every game in the first 10 minutes. But now that we started scoring, the veterans should step up for everybody."
Goaltender Johan Hedberg: "I got furious that they didn’t call goaltender interference. If I’m playing in the crease and they hit me and it’s a goal, it’s goaltender interference. I think being a referee in the NHL is probably the hardest job in the world. I’m just asking for some kind of respect.
"I think [Chicago] has got a bright future. With three first-round picks -- Ruutu, Toews, and Kane -- it’s going to be a force for a lot of years. They got a lot of young, great defensemen in Seabrook and Keith and those guys. I think this team is just going to get better and better."
Head Coach Don Waddell: "I thought it was very important for our team to come out because of what we talked about the other night. We wanted to be the team with all the energy tonight. Our start was tremendous. Our first 20 minutes was as good of a first period as we’ve played all year.
"Ideally you look at the clock when it’s 3-1 and all you want that clock... if they’re going to score you want them to score with about 10 seconds left. And they score still with about a minute left. Our guys did a tremendous job that last minute. We were really on the puck and I don’t know if they had a good opportunity in the last minute. I thought we did a very good job of jumping on loose pucks and shooting it down the ice, making them come back 200 feet."