ATLANTA (AP) _ His brief punishment over, Ilya Kovalchuk got back to doing what he does best _ scoring goals.
A starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game earlier in the month, Kovalchuk missed a team meeting before Friday night's game against the New Jersey Devils. Coach Bob Hartley held him out of that game, won by the Thrashers.
``I apologized to the team, and I just wanted to show them I was ready to go today,'' Kovalchuk said. ``That's my favorite thing to do in my life, is to play hockey.''
Patrik Stefan added a short-handed goal, and Daniel Tjarnqvist had two assists for the Thrashers, who won for the fifth time in eight games. Pasi Nurminen made 28 saves.
``Discipline is a big part of life,'' Hartley said of Kovalchuk's punishment. ``He's a great hockey player, and he's certainly a great part of this organization. He has a lot to offer on the ice, but like any other 20-year-old, he has a lot to learn.''
Brian Leetch and Chris Simon had goals for the Rangers, and Mark Messier had two assists. But New York finished 0-for-7 on the power play, including one late advantage when the Thrashers were called for too many on the ice.
Nurminen stopped a blast from Jaromir Jagr, the best chance during the penalty, and New York didn't threaten again.
``I don't know how many power plays we had, but we didn't do anything with them,'' Leetch said. ``Lately, we've had more power plays than penalties.''
The Rangers fell to 5-16 in one-goal games and lost for the seventh time in nine games overall, including an overtime defeat at Nashville on Saturday. The only two victories in that span were part of a season sweep of the New York Islanders.
``We're trying to win hockey games, but it's going to take the entire bench,'' said Rangers interim coach Tom Renney, who fell to 1-2 since replacing Glen Sather. ``I don't play to showcase people or get the young guys ice time or anything like that. We are a function of 20 guys every game and we need them all.''
It didn't take long for Kovalchuk to make his presence felt. On his first shift, he got a drop pass from Randy Robitaille and sent a slap shot that Mike Dunham knocked away with his stick.
Minutes later, Kovalchuk scored his first goal after Robitaille won a faceoff in the New York zone. The second came off a nifty pass from Dany Heatley, who sent a diagonal pass from near the blue line to Kovalchuk near the crease.
Kovalchuk waited patiently and then beat Dunham glove side for a 3-1 lead.
``I was all alone, with nobody close to me,'' Kovalchuk said. ``I like to play against the Rangers. They're a real offensive team and we always get lots of chances.''
Stefan's goal gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead late in the second period.
|Ilya Kovalchuk (34) ASST: Randy Robitaille (21)|
1 - 0 ATL
|Chris Simon (12) ASST: Mark Messier (16)|
1 - 1 Tie
|SHG - Patrik Stefan (10) ASST: Shawn McEachern (32), Daniel Tjarnqvist (12)|
2 - 1 ATL
|Ilya Kovalchuk (35) ASST: Dany Heatley (6), Daniel Tjarnqvist (13)|
3 - 1 ATL
|Brian Leetch (13) ASST: Mark Messier (17), Tom Poti (12)|
3 - 2 ATL
|Ronald Petrovicky Interference - Obstruction against Chris Simon|
|Vladimir Malakhov Hi-sticking against Jeff Cowan|
|Chris Simon Roughing against Jeff Cowan|
|Shawn Heins Slashing against Vladimir Malakhov|
|Derek MacKenzie Hooking - Obstruction against Matthew Barnaby|
|Serge Aubin Roughing against Chris Simon|
|Derek MacKenzie Diving against Mark Messier|
|Martin Rucinsky Interference against Brad Larsen|
|Andy Sutton Interference - Obstruction|
|Randy Robitaille Too many men/ice - bench|