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Kovalchuk leads Thrashers' rally against Leafs

by Brian Compton
It had been a while since Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson had seen Ilya Kovalchuk put forth such a performance, but the superstar forward was on top of his game on Tuesday night.

After watching his team fall behind 2-0 in the first period, Kovalchuk scored once in the second and again in the third as the Thrashers rallied for a 4-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Philips Arena.

It was the 29th and 30th goals of the season for Kovalchuk, who hadn't had a two-goal game since Nov. 13 after accomplishing the feat five times in the first 10 games of the season.

"That was the best game I've seen Kovy play in two weeks," Anderson said of Kovalchuk, who also had an assist. "I guess he felt good. He always plays good, but that was something special."

The Thrashers scored four straight goals after Alexei Ponikarovsky gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in a 32-second span in the first. He now has 18 goals this season. Ondrej Pavelec made 37 saves in the victory.

"We had a slow start and they got two goals, but we found a way to win," Kovalchuk said.

Kovalchuk cut the lead to 2-1 at 2:43 of the second period when his shot from just beyond the left circle beat Vesa Toskala (28 saves). Rookie forward Evander Kane tied it less than 10 minutes later as the Leafs blew a multi-goal lead for the second straight night. They surrendered a three-goal lead in Nashville on Monday, but managed to escape with a 4-3 win.

"Generally, I felt like we did a good job tonight," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "We just shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with penalties. We controlled the game but turned the puck over and gave up some soft goals and it hurt us."

Rich Peverley gave Atlanta the lead with a power-play goal just 1:58 into the third period before Kovalchuk made it 4-2 at 4:20. Niklas Hagman got the Leafs back to within one with his 18th goal at 5:53 of the third, but Pavelec made sure his team left the rink with two points as Toronto spent the final 1:49 on the power play.

"Pavelec made some unbelievable saves and the penalty kill stopped them in the final minute," Kovalchuk said. "It was a team effort. If we work like we did tonight, we're going to win a lot of games."

Ducks 5, Sabres 4 | HIGHLIGHTS

Ryan Getzlaf and Evgeny Artyukhin each had a goal and an assist in the first period and Jonas Hiller made 41 saves as Anaheim won its eighth straight on home ice with a victory against Buffalo.

Bobby Ryan and Mike Brown also scored in the first and Troy Bodie added one in the third for the Ducks, who have won seven of Hiller's last eight starts. They'll play their next six games on the road.

"These points are huge for us right now," Getzlaf said. "We love our building and we love our fans. We've got to carry that out on the road and be ready to go."

Patrick Lalime made his seventh start of the season for Buffalo while Ryan Miller was originally given the night off before Thursday night's game at Los Angeles. But Lalime, looking for his 200th NHL victory, allowed four goals on 11 shots in the first 10:26.

That left coach Lindy Ruff with no choice but to switch goalies with a 4-0 deficit, after Lalime -- who remains stuck on 199 career wins -- gave up Ryan's 22nd of the season. Miller stopped 18 of 19 shots in his first relief outing.

''Sometimes the strategy in changing goalies is to get the guys fired up, and we responded well,'' said Lalime, whose slashing penalty led to Ryan's goal. ''It would have been easy to just pack it in. But everybody in this room was committed to come back. We responded well to the change and we came close.''

Indeed, the Sabres did. Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur both scored within the first minute of the second period, and Steve Montador made it 4-3 when he backhanded a shot past Hiller at 6:12. It was Connolly's 100th NHL goal.

"We had a pretty decent start," Hiller said. "It's always tough to try and keep it up. That's what kind of killed us in the second, but we found a way."

Bodie gave Anaheim a two-goal lead again when he notched his second NHL goal at 15:53 of the third. Jochen Hecht scored in the final minute to make it 5-4, but the Sabres couldn't get the equalizer. They outshot the Ducks 17-10 in the third period and 45-30 for the game.

"There's no easy games," Bodie said. "We got off to a hot start, and that was good. A little rocky road in the second period and they kind of started shooting the puck. We just stuck with it. That's kind of been what we've been doing lately."

Senators 4, Blackhawks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Peter Regin had a goal and an assist, and Brian Elliott made 29 saves as Ottawa earned an impressive win against Chicago at Scotiabank Place. Zack Smith, Ryan Shannon and Mike Fisher also scored for the Sens, who have won four in a row.

"I think the last four games we've played well and different lines and different guys have contributed to the team," Regin said. "Last time it was Alfie's line that scored all the goals and tonight we had two big ones, so it's good for the team that different guys can score goals."

"I think the last four games we've played well and different lines and different guys have contributed to the team.  Last time it was Alfie's line that scored all the goals and tonight we had two big ones, so it's good for the team that different guys can score goals."              -- Peter Regin

Marian Hossa scored a shorthanded goal for the Blackhawks, who saw their three-game win streak snapped despite outshooting Ottawa 30-18. Cristobal Huet made just 14 saves.

"It was just one of those nights where we weren't competing and we weren't skating," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I don't know why, but we know that Thursday's game (in Calgary) is going to be tough so we better be ready for that one."

After Smith gave the Sens a 1-0 lead with his second goal in three games at 6:51 of the first, Shannon tallied his fifth goal of the season when he redirected Regin's feed past Huet at 12:31.

With captain Jonathan Toews in the box for slashing, Hossa cut the deficit in half when he took a pass from Keith and fired a slap shot past Elliott for his 13th goal of the season. But Regin restored Ottawa's two-goal lead on a wraparound with 1:55 left in the period.

Fisher rounded out the scoring with a power-play goal at 16:45 of the third.

"If you take away the goals and watch the game, I think they had more puck possession and probably the better chances as well," Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "But our 'D' did a great job in front of the goalie, he made the first saves, we cleared the puck really well and scored some timely goals."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report

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