SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) _ This time, the talented goalie with a bright future on
display in Florida was not the usual one.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots to earn his first NHL shutout, and the
Atlanta Thrashers set a franchise record for wins and points in a season with a
3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
``That was a big thing for me,'' said Lehtonen, who played while Panthers
All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo rested. ``It's something that you want right
away, and now I get it in my third game. That's a pretty good thing. I'm just
Dany Heatley scored twice and Patrik Stefan added a goal for the Thrashers,
who earned their 32nd victory and 76th point. Atlanta beat Florida for the
fifth consecutive time, winning the season series 5-1.
``The goal of this franchise is to get better every year,'' Heatley said.
``I think we got better last year, and I think we took another step this year.
That's a positive sign. We want to keep that going next year.''
Florida lost its fifth game in a row, the previous four by one goal.
Lehtonen, who made his NHL debut in Atlanta's 3-2 victory over Florida on
March 19, is 3-0. The native of Finland was the No. 2 pick in the 2002 NHL
draft, the highest a European goalie has ever been drafted.
``You can tell that the kid's confidence is growing, like his demeanor out
there around the net and his puck handling,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.
``He is just coming into the league, and his first couple of starts it seems
that he has 10 years experience behind his belt.''
Lehtonen's best save came when he stopped Darcy Hordichuk on a breakaway
late in the second period.
``He's a big guy, he intimidates you and you've just got to get it off quick
before he even gets in a crouch position,'' Panthers coach John Torchetti said
of the 6-foot-3 goalie. ``There's not too many holes in him so you've either
got to get deflections or rebound goals.''
Ilya Kovalchuk's two assists moved him into a tie with Colorado's Joe Sakic
for second place in the NHL scoring race with 85 points. Tampa Bay's Martin St.
Louis has an league-high 89 points.
Atlanta is 8-3-2-2 in its last 15 games.
Florida's Steve Shields, starting in place of Luongo, allowed three goals on
only 19 shots _ the lowest total Florida has allowed this season.
Heatley scored his 11th goal, at 14:43 of the third, when he took the puck
in the right circle and wristed the puck high to Shields' left side. It was
Heatley's first multigoal game of the season.
The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead when Heatley scored on the power play 1:16
into the second. Heatley, standing in the right circle, took a cross-ice pass
from Kovalchuk and put a wrist shot past a sliding Shields for his 10th goal
and fourth on the power play.
Stefan scored his 14th goal, on Atlanta's first shot, to give the Thrashers
a 1-0 lead 3:33 in. Stefan took a pass from Kovalchuk in the neutral zone and
skated down the left side before slapping a shot between Shields' legs.
``On the first goal, I overplayed it and the puck went between my legs,''
Shields said. ``It certainly was a bad time to give up a goal, that early in
``On the second one, I thought Kovalchuk was going to shoot, and he passed