NEW YORK - Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists in his first game back from a foot injury and Rich Peverley scored once and set up two goals in the Atlanta Thrashers' 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Atlanta got a big boost from Kovalchuk, who had missed six games and had been ruled out of this one as late as Wednesday. But the team captain got on the team flight, took part in Thursday morning's skate, and was fine following pregame warmups.
He helped set up Peverley's power-play goal in the second period and then scored to put Atlanta back in front after the Rangers tied it a second time.
Thrashers rookie Evander Kane, who was questionable because of a foot injury, felt well enough to play and chipped in with a goal and assist. Johan Hedberg stopped 33 shots while playing in his third straight for Atlanta, which won for the fourth time in six games. Colby Armstrong also scored, and Maxim Afinogenov sealed it with an empty-netter - off a pass from Kovalchuk - with under 13 seconds left.
New York, missing injured captain Chris Drury (concussion) and fellow forward Brandon Dubinsky (broken hand), erased a one-goal hole in the first and another in the second when the Thrashers controlled play. But penalties again cost the Rangers, who returned home from a 1-2 Western Canada road trip and lost for the eighth time in 11 games (3-7-1)
Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik erased one-goal deficits for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist came back from a two-game absence (injured leg) to make 22 saves. Brian Boyle brought New York within 4-3 when he slammed in a rebound of Ales Kotalik's shot 6:18 into the third.
The Rangers couldn't get even again in the final frame despite two power-play chances and a 18-5 shots advantage. Kotalik ripped a drive from the blue-line that was deflected in front before hitting off the goal post with 8:47 remaining.
Atlanta dominated the second period, scoring three times on 12 shots and taking advantage of both power plays. The Thrashers played for the first time since Sunday. New York had been off since losing at Calgary on Saturday when Drury and Dubinsky were injured.
After Gaborik got the Rangers into their second tie, Kovalchuk put Atlanta back in front 3-2 with 2:19 left in the second. Kovalchuk, who earlier in the period assisted on Peverley's go-ahead, power-play goal, netted his 10th of the season as Boyle served a tripping penalty he disputed as he entered and left the box.
Kovalchuk zipped a shot from the left circle that sailed over Lundqvist's glove. Kane made it 4-2 just 25 seconds later with the fourth goal of his rookie season.
Gaborik had lifted New York into a 2-2 tie with 4:32 remaining in the period, scoring his 13th goal in 17 games when his drive from the top of the circle beat Hedberg under his left arm and over his pad. The goal was set up when Atlanta's Colby Armstrong was caught tripping Anisimov 34 seconds earlier.
Armstrong got things going just 19 seconds into the game when he took a pass in the crease from Kane and directed it past Lundqvist. That broke a Thrashers string of seven straight goals scored by defencemen. Anisimov tied it 3:49 later when he got to a rebound of Gaborik's shot and put the puck past Hedberg.
NOTES: Kovalchuk has four multigoal games this season, accounting for eight of his 10 goals. ... The Rangers are 17-12-1-7 against Atlanta. ... New York dropped to 14-4 in its last 18 home games, dating to last season.