The Atlanta Thrashers' high-scoring ways have the team off to a fast start this season. Now the Thrashers are hoping their goaltending can catch up.
The Thrashers (12-3-3) go for a season-high fifth straight win when they host the New York Rangers (8-6-1) on Friday night.
The Thrashers have scored an NHL-best 67 goals in jumping out to a big lead in the Southeast Division. Despite the excellent start, their goaltending has hardly been reliable.
Atlanta needed Slava Kozlov's fifth career hat trick as it rallied from a two-goal deficit for a 5-4 win over Ottawa on Wednesday night.
The Thrashers fell behind 4-2 at 9:39 of the second period, and coach Bob Hartley yanked backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who gave up all four goals in 19 shots. Kari Lehtonen replaced him and made 19 stops.
"Kari came in and he gave us a chance," Kozlov said. "He made some really good saves to keep us in it when we were down two goals."
The Thrashers also won four in a row from Oct. 14-23. Their last five-game winning streak was from Jan. 6-18.
As well as his team is playing, Hartley is struggling to find a solution in net. Lehtonen's strong performance came after four straight shaky starts, a string that culminated in him being pulled in the second period of a 5-2 loss to Atlanta on Nov. 1.
Hedberg had won three consecutive starts with a 2.34 goals-against average, but his regression against the Senators leaves the Thrashers' goaltending picture as unclear as before.
The 22-year-old Lehtonen, for one, still sees the situation in a positive light.
"It's great to have two good goalies on the team," said Lehtonen, who went 7-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA and two shutouts over the first nine games of the season.
Both goalies have had success against the Rangers, but Lehtonen's has come more recently.
Lehtonen won his only two career starts against New York last season, posting a 1.88 GAA. Hedberg is 4-3 with a 1.80 GAA against New York, although he hasn't faced the Rangers since 2003 while with Pittsburgh.
The Thrashers have the top two scorers in the NHL in Marian Hossa (27 points) and Ilya Kovalchuk (24).
Hossa is on a season-high four-game point streak, with eight points during that span.
Kovalchuk has four goals in the last two games to tie Hossa with 13 on the season. He scored three goals against New York last season.
The Rangers are the only other team in the league with three players above the 20-point mark, led by captain Jaromir Jagr with 23.
One of those players, Michael Nylander, scored the lone shootout goal in a 4-3 win over Florida on Wednesday. New York has won three of its last four, with all the wins coming on the road.
The Rangers also improved to 3-0 in shootouts this season.
"We really don't mind going into a shootout," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "We feel like we have an advantage with our shooters."
Nylander and Brendan Shanahan each had two assists each in the win. Nylander has 21 points on the season, while Shanahan has 20.
Shanahan hopes to build on that against an Atlanta squad that he has 13 points against in six career games, including a career-best five-point night on Dec. 13, 2005 - his last game against them.
Jagr led the Rangers last season with six points in four meetings with the Thrashers, including a goal in each of the last three games. New York won the season series 2-0-2.