ATLANTA (AP) -- Dany Heatley watched the Atlanta Thrashers in person for the
first time this season. Surely, he liked what he saw.
Pasi Nurminen stopped 34 shots, and Randy Robitallie, J.P. Vigier and Shawn
McEachern each had a goal, helping Atlanta beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1
The Thrashers won their third straight game just hours after Heatley spoke
publicly for the first time since the car wreck that killed teammate and friend
Dan Snyder. Heatley, who broke his jaw and tore knee ligaments in the crash,
started skating again this week and hopes to return this season.
"For him, I'm sure this is a big day," Atlanta defenseman Andy Sutton
said. "He's trying to get on with his life. Any progress he can make toward
that is a real bonus for him."
Heatley and his family made the decision to hold the news conference as a
way to continue the healing process, and he readily admitted the accident has
changed him off the ice. He watched the game from a private box with his
"I'm going to think about this forever," Heatley said. "Every time I go
to sleep I think about it, and Dan. It's something I'll deal with the rest of
Heatley was on the mind of at least one fan, a young girl who was without a
few of her front teeth. She proudly held a sign that read, "I love my Dany
Heatley smile," in reference to Heatley's gap-toothed look.
"I think that was another good day for Dany," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley
said. "Winning the game makes it a better day."
Ilya Kovalchuk, who teamed with Heatley during their rookie seasons on a
line affectionately called "The Kids," had an assist. Without Heatley in the
lineup, Kovalchuk has blossomed, staying near the top of the NHL's scoring
leaders. He has 21 goals, tied with Rick Nash of Columbus for most in the
league entering the night.
Brad Lukowich spoiled Nurminen's chance at his third shutout of the season,
scoring on a one-timer after a faceoff with about seven minutes left. Tampa Bay
lost for the sixth time in eight games (1-6-1-0) and fell to 1-8-3 all-time in
"We were close, but close is not good enough in this league," Tampa Bay
right wing Martin St. Louis said. "Our work ethic is right. I don't feel like
we're not working hard."
The first sellout crowd of the season saw Atlanta increase its lead in the
Southeast Division to eight points over the Lightning.
"The deciding factor was we had 20 scoring changes and didn't finish,"
Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We simply can't score a goal. Nurminen
was the difference, there's no question about it."
For the third straight game, the Thrashers jumped to an early lead.
Robitaille took a cross-ice pass from Jeff Cowan, then quickly slapped the puck
passed Nikolai Khabibulin for a 1-0 lead.
The pass was intended for Kovalchuk, who was taken down in front of the net
by Andre Roy. A penalty was forthcoming on Roy, but Robitaille's goal canceled
"We wanted to get out to a good start," Robitaille said. "It was an
Vigier made it 2-0 with a bad-angle shot from the boards, then McEachern
added an empty-net goal with 8 seconds left.