ATLANTA (AP) _ His brief punishment over, Ilya Kovalchuk got back to doing
what he does best _ scoring goals.
Kovalchuk bounced back from a one-game benching to score his NHL-leading
34th and 35th goals, and the Atlanta Thrashers held off the New York Rangers
A starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game earlier in the
month, Kovalchuk missed a team meeting before Friday night's game against the
New Jersey Devils. Coach Bob Hartley held him out of that game, won by the
``I apologized to the team, and I just wanted to show them I was ready to go
today,'' Kovalchuk said. ``That's my favorite thing to do in my life, is to
Patrik Stefan added a short-handed goal, and Daniel Tjarnqvist had two
assists for the Thrashers, who won for the fifth time in eight games. Pasi
Nurminen made 28 saves.
``Discipline is a big part of life,'' Hartley said of Kovalchuk's
punishment. ``He's a great hockey player, and he's certainly a great part of
this organization. He has a lot to offer on the ice, but like any other
20-year-old, he has a lot to learn.''
Brian Leetch and Chris Simon had goals for the Rangers, and Mark Messier had
two assists. But New York finished 0-for-7 on the power play, including one
late advantage when the Thrashers were called for too many on the ice.
Nurminen stopped a blast from Jaromir Jagr, the best chance during the
penalty, and New York didn't threaten again.
``I don't know how many power plays we had, but we didn't do anything with
them,'' Leetch said. ``Lately, we've had more power plays than penalties.''
The Rangers fell to 5-16 in one-goal games and lost for the seventh time in
nine games overall, including an overtime defeat at Nashville on Saturday. The
only two victories in that span were part of a season sweep of the New York
``We're trying to win hockey games, but it's going to take the entire
bench,'' said Rangers interim coach Tom Renney, who fell to 1-2 since replacing
Glen Sather. ``I don't play to showcase people or get the young guys ice time
or anything like that. We are a function of 20 guys every game and we need them
It didn't take long for Kovalchuk to make his presence felt. On his first
shift, he got a drop pass from Randy Robitaille and sent a slap shot that Mike
Dunham knocked away with his stick.
Minutes later, Kovalchuk scored his first goal after Robitaille won a
faceoff in the New York zone. The second came off a nifty pass from Dany
Heatley, who sent a diagonal pass from near the blue line to Kovalchuk near the
Kovalchuk waited patiently and then beat Dunham glove side for a 3-1 lead.
``I was all alone, with nobody close to me,'' Kovalchuk said. ``I like to
play against the Rangers. They're a real offensive team and we always get lots
Stefan's goal gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead late in the second period.