NEW YORK –
Atlanta captain Ilya Kovalchuk
wasted no time putting his best foot forward.
After missing six games and nearly three weeks with a broken bone in his right foot, Kovalchuk was in the lineup Thursday night for the Thrashers’ game against the New York Rangers
at Madison Square Garden -- and scored the go-ahead goal in the second period of a 5-3 victory.
After hitting a post earlier in the period, Kovalchuk ripped a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot into the top right corner at 17:41 to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
He also had an assist on Rich Peverley
's goal 4:02 into the middle period and added another on Maxim Afinogenov
's empty-netter for a three-point night.
"I don't feel limited," Kovalchuk said Thursday morning while wearing a walking boot on his injured foot. "If I felt limited I would let someone else play."
The Thrashers called Kovalchuk a game-time decision Thursday morning, saying they would wait to see how he felt during the pregame warmup. He had been expected to be out for another week, so the two-time 50-goal scorer is returning to the ice ahead of schedule. He was on the ice for the warmup and in the lineup.
The Thrashers went 3-3-0 in the six games since Kovalchuk took a slap shot off his foot in the first period against San Jose on Oct. 24.