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Ilya Kovalchuk scores twice, Thrashers beat Panthers 5-3 @NHL

ATLANTA - Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals and added an assist, and the Atlanta Thrashers held off the Florida Panthers 5-3 Sunday night to end a six-game losing streak.

The defeat was the fourth straight for the Panthers.

Kovalchuk scored both goals - his fourth and fifth - and assisted on Bryan Little's sixth goal in the second period, giving the Thrashers a 4-1 lead. Erik Christiansen assisted on both of Kovalchuk's goals.

The Panthers made it close when Nathan Horton scored at 18:20 of the second period and Brett McLean got his first goal of the season by tipping in Noah Welch's shot 3:17 into the final period.

But Atlanta's Todd White scored an empty-net goal with 44 seconds remaining to clinch the victory. White's third goal came as he flipped the puck from in front of his net nearly the length of the ice into the middle of the Panthers' goal.

The Thrashers hadn't won since Oct. 18, a 3-2 shootout victory over Buffalo. Atlanta (3-7-2) is 3-3 at home.

Kovalchuk's first goal came at 5:05 when he beat Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun from in close, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead before David Booth scored for the Panthers on a power play. Booth got his fourth goal by poking a wraparound shot past goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 6:47 gone in the second.

Kovalchuk made it 3-1 with a power-play score when he stickhandled past three Panthers before flipping the puck past Vokoun and into the upper right corner of the net as he was falling at the 10:39 mark.

Little then raced and beat Vokoun to the puck from about 10 feet in front of the goal, easily scoring into a wide-open net for a 4-1 lead at the 17-minute mark.

Horton made it 4-2 when he scored his fourth goal from in front 1:20 later.

Slava Kozlov gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead with nine seconds remaining in the opening period, knocking in his sixth goal by rebounding a shot from Garnet Exelby past Vokoun, who was falling backward after the puck hit him in the chest. It was Kozlov's third goal in three games.

Notes: Pavelec, recalled from Chicago of the AHL on Friday, started in place of ailing Kari Lehtonen, who was a scratch along with F Brett Sterling. ... The Thrashers outshot Florida 15-4 in the opening period. ... White played in his 500th NHL game. ... Florida D Jay Bouwmeester played in his 400th game and C Kamil Kreps took part in his 100th. ... This was the Panthers second of five straight road games. They are 1-4-1 away from home.

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