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Ilya Kovalchuk's unassisted overtime goal lifts Thrashers over Sabres 3-2

NHL.com @NHL

ATLANTA - Ilya Kovalchuk scored on an unassisted breakaway with 29.9 seconds left in overtime to give the Atlanta Thrashers a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Buffalo's Thomas Vanek was near the blue line and was trying to make a pass into his team's zone, but he bounced the puck off Kovalchuk's skate.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller stepped to the top of the crease to try and stop Kovalchuk, whose wrist shot went under the goalie's legs. The goal was Kovalchuk's 41st and gave him 30 in 37 games.

Buffalo ended a three-game winning streak. With 83 points, the Sabres are four behind ninth-place Florida and five behind Montreal and the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta has won three straight and 10 of 13.

Vanek scored twice to give him 37 goals for Buffalo, which began the game with the NHL's third-best power play on the road.

Thrashers rookie defenceman Zach Bogosian's seventh goal, on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, forced a 1-1 tie 8:36 into the third.

The NHL's third overall draft pick was one of four Thrashers penalized for roughing in the second. Officials had to separate Bogosian and Buffalo centre Dominic Moore as the two exchanged shoves after the period ended.

Atlanta's penalty-killing unit, which ranked 29th at home, couldn't overcome a two-man disadvantage that began 12:50 into the second when Garnet Exelby went to the box for roughing.

Vanek's wrist shot from the top of the slot 1:06 later made it 2-2.

Vanek's first goal, swept in from below the right circle, beat goalie Johan Hedberg's glove side.

Slava Kozlov was in the crease when he poked in his 25th goal to give the Thrashers a 2-1 lead midway through the second. Miller, who dropped to 8-4-1 in his last 13 games and 31-17-5 overall, stopped 27 shots.

Hedberg, who improved to 12-10-3, made 30 saves. The Thrashers No. 1 goalie, Kari Lehtonen, has missed two straight games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Notes: Of Buffalo's final six opponents, four are among the top five teams in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres will also play defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit, the No. 2 team in the West. ... Atlanta is 12-3-3 against the Sabres at home, and the Thrashers have won the last five in the series - three in shootouts and two in overtime. ... Vanek has 19 power-play goals. ... Kovalchuk has five goals and 10 assists in his last six games.

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