Atlanta ended its scoring slump in a big way Saturday, beating Pittsburgh 7-4. Marc Savard had the biggest game of his career with a goal and four assists, and Ilya Kovalchuk snapped out of an eight-game scoring drought with two goals and three assists.
The NHL's second-highest scoring team had been shut out in a team record three consecutive games, but Ronald Petrovicky scored eight seconds after the opening faceoff to send the Thrashers to their first victory since beating Pittsburgh 6-3 Dec. 12.
"Savard played a great game," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "He is one of the offensive leaders on this team, and we needed a big performance from many of our leaders."
Kovalchuk, who matched his career high for points in a game with two goals and two assists, tied Columbus' Rick Nash for the NHL goal-scoring lead with 20.
Philadelphia snapped a season-worst, five-game winless streak (0-1-2-2) with a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night, as rookie defenseman Jim Vandermeer had the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
With fellow rookie blueliner Joni Pitkanen sidelined with the flu, Vandermeer stepped into Philadelphia's lineup to score the tying goal and winning goals.
Esche missed seven games after straining his groin in warmups before a Dec. 6 game at Boston. In his absence, Jeff Hackett went 1-3-3 and allowed 17 goals. Esche is undefeated at home (8-0-1).
"I wasn't overly enthused the way I played," Esche said. "I was excited to get back in."