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Thrashers surprise Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The matchup between the best and worst teams in the Eastern Conference did not follow the script.

Ray Ferraro scored his 400th career goal and rookies Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk each tallied twice as the Atlanta Thrashers surprised the conference-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4.

Ferraro became the 66th player to reach the milestone when he took a pass from rookie Darcy Hordichuk in the right faceoff circle and snapped a one-timer past goaltender Corey Schwab with 3:50 left in the second period.

"It's funny," said Ferraro, who ended a seven-game drought. "I really didn't give too much thought about it, but everybody was talking about. I didn't think it would be that much of a relief, but it really made me feel good to finally score. That's pretty neat company to be in and something that when I'm done, I can certainly be proud of."

The goal came just 11 seconds after Kovalchuk scored on a breakaway to snap a 2-2 tie.

Toronto closed to 4-3 on Mikael Renberg's goal with six seconds left in the period, but Heatley restored Atlanta's two-goal cushion with 7:05 to play.

Defenseman Bryan McCabe scored Toronto's first two goals but coughed up the puck behind the net on Heatley's second goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.

"I tripped on the boards there and the puck went the other way and ended up in the net -- the game-winning goal," McCabe said. "It's not a good night, that's for sure."

Kovalchuk passed in front to Heatley, who lifted a shot over a fallen Schwab.

"(Kovalchuk) made a great pass to me out front," Heatley said. "I know when he goes in the corner he likes to throw it out front there and I just kind of parked myself out there and made a quick shot."

Mats Sundin recorded his 900th NHL point when he scored 22 seconds later for the Leafs, who pressed for the equalizer in the final minutes.

Atlanta ended a nine-game home winless streak, posting its first victory at Philips Arena since a 3-2 triumph over Buffalo on November 19.

"I thought the third period was the best of the year," Thrashers coach Curt Fraser said. "We had talked about it now for a long time, so maybe the guys are starting to figure out that they have to be aggressive. They have to go after these teams in the third."

The Maple Leafs dropped to 0-2 on a five-game road trip. They were coming off Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Carolina.

"We're fine in here," McCabe said. "We're a first-place team. Everybody's making it out like we're in a slump or that we're fragile. A couple bad bounces the last couple games and we end up on the wrong side."

McCabe scored 8:09 into the second period to give Toronto a 2-1 lead, but things began to fall apart for the Leafs after Heatley's fluke goal on the power play tied it with 7:29 left in the period.

Heatley's seemingly harmless dump-in glanced off the skate of Toronto center Alyn McCauley and caromed into the net. Schwab skated behind the net, expecting to play the puck, and could not get back in time.

"I threw my stick, but once you commit yourself to go out, obviously you can't get back in quick enough," he said.

A turnover also led to Kovalchuk's go-ahead goal. After Atlanta defenseman Frantisek Kaberle banged Robert Reichel in the neutral zone, Kovalchuk snared the puck and beat Schwab between the pads on a clean breakaway.

"Our defense reminds me of the first few weeks of the season," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "They had fluke goals."

Milan Hnilicka made 26 saves for the Thrashers. Giving Curtis Joseph a rare night off, Schwab turned aside just 15 shots.

Game Stats | Event Summary.
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