ATLANTA (AP) _ While the Atlanta Thrashers tried to get set up Ilya
Kovalchuk, the Pittsburgh Penguins took advantage.
Kovalchuk, in the race for the NHL lead in goals and points, was denied on
his first 13 shots before he finally scored with 5.6 seconds left. By that
time, the Penguins had secured a victory, 3-2 Friday night.
The young Thrashers forward took a team-record 14 shots, breaking his own
mark of 10, and netted his 40th goal, tying him for the NHL lead.
``They were going out of they way trying to set up Kovalchuk,'' Pittsburgh
coach Eddie Olczyk said. ``When you start doing that, players on the opposing
team will play off of that. He had a bunch of shots, but they were looking for
``They had a lot of times when they passed up scoring opportunities.''
Kovalchuk pulled him even with Columbus' Rick Nash and Calgary's Jarome
Iginla atop the goal list. He is third in the league in points.
The Thrashers, playing their final home game, made no attempt to disguise
``We had two objectives,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. ``One was to
win the game and No. 2 was to try to get Kovalchuk as many goals as we possibly
Kovalchuk, who was denied on six first-period shots by Jean-Sebastien Aubin,
hadn't scored in five games.
``This is my first 40-goal season and I appreciate all the guys looking for
me all game long,'' Kovalchuk said. ``I hadn't scored in five games. I was so
close so many times.''
Aubin, who stopped 31 shots, was making his last start of the season for the
Penguins. Pittsburgh will close its season Sunday at home against Washington.
Pittsburgh has the worst record in the NHL but is 9-4-3 in March and April,
matching its win total for the first three months of the season.
Kelly Buchberger scored his first goal of the season for the Penguins, who
were outshot 12-7 in the first period and 33-24 overall.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Lasse Pirjeta with 1:12 left.
Just 1:36 into the second period, Thrashers goaltender Pasi Nurminen
attempted to clear the puck but instead directed it straight to Buchberger in
the left circle. Buchberger sent the puck right back past Nurminen to make it
``Usually when I make a mistake that bad, it shows up on the scoreboard
right away,'' Nurminen said.
Dany Heatley's 13th goal 9:26 into the second period cut Pittsburgh's lead
to 2-1. Randy Robitaille was credited with the assist on the even-strength goal
that was scored from the left circle.
Aleksey Morozov, who also assisted on Pirjeta's goal, scored into an empty
net with 47 seconds remaining.