For the Atlanta Thrashers, the best way to bounce back from a disappointing loss over one division rival could be to continue their dominance over another one.
Atlanta looks for another decisive win over the Florida Panthers when the teams face off at Philips Arena on Saturday.
The Thrashers (13-7-4) are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. Leading 2-1 in the final minute of regulation - and just 7 seconds after Niclas Havelid was penalized for delay of game - Kari Lehtonen allowed Dan Boyle's game-tying goal.
Lehtonen then surrendered Martin St. Louis' game-winner 2:25 into overtime, sending Atlanta to its fifth loss in six games.
"We leave with a point, but we left one on the table," said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley, who was looking for his 300th career NHL victory.
Despite dropping five of their last six games, the Thrashers have a one-point lead over the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division, and could get back on the winning track Saturday if recent history is any indicator.
Atlanta has easily handled Florida in all three meetings this season, outscoring the Panthers 16-5.
Marian Hossa has five goals and two assists against Florida this season. Ilya Kovalchuk has four goals and an assist, while Slava Kozlov has tallied a goal and six assists in the season series.
The trio has accounted for 41.3 percent (86) of Atlanta's 208 total points this season.
Kovalchuk and Kozlov were particularly dominant in Atlanta's 6-3 win in Florida on Oct. 23. Kovalchuk scored three of the Thrashers' club-record five power-play goals, and added an assist. Kozlov drew a career-best four assists.
Lehtonen has started all three games against Florida, recording a 1.67 goals-against average and a shutout.
Florida (8-12-4) is tied with the Washington Capitals for the second-fewest wins the Eastern Conference behind the Philadelphia Flyers (6).
The Panthers, who are opening a three-game road trip, lost for the third time in four games Friday, falling 6-4 to the Ottawa Senators.
Gary Roberts scored twice, and his power-play goal early in the third period gave Florida a 4-3 lead. But 41-year-old goaltender Ed Belfour gave up three straight goals - including Dany Heatley's third of the game with 1 minute remaining.
"I don't get too many pretty ones so I'll take it," Roberts said. "It would have been a lot better if we would have gotten a win."
Neither Belfour nor fellow Florida goaltender Alex Auld has fared well against Atlanta this season.
Belfour made his Panthers' debut Oct. 7 against the Thrashers, and was lifted after allowing four goals on nine shots in a 6-0 loss. He also played one period in relief of Auld on Oct. 23, stopping seven of eight shots.
Auld has appeared in all three contests, starting two of them, and posting a 4.52 GAA.
|Mar 28 '07||ATL 2 at FLA 3 - SO||N. Horton|
|Mar 10 '07||ATL 2 at FLA 3||J. Bouwmeester|
|Mar 06 '07||FLA 2 at ATL 4||I. Kovalchuk|
|Dec 02 '06||ATL 3 at FLA 1||G. Metropolit|
|Nov 25 '06||FLA 0 at ATL 1||I. Kovalchuk|
|Oct 23 '06||ATL 6 at FLA 3||S. Mellanby|
|Oct 21 '06||FLA 2 at ATL 4||I. Kovalchuk|
|Oct 07 '06||FLA 0 at ATL 6||J. Sim|