TORONTO (AP) -Just like that, the Atlanta Thrashers are surging and the Toronto Maple Leafs are struggling.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winner in a shootout to give last-place Atlanta a 5-4 victory over Toronto after the Thrashers allowed the tying to goal to the hometown Maple Leafs in the closing seconds of regulation Tuesday night.
Kovalchuk, Tobias Enstrom, with his first NHL goal, Eric Perrin and Todd White scored in regulation for the Thrashers (2-7), who are 2-1 since general manager Don Waddell took over as coach after firing Bob Hartley.
"It's just nice to get a win and help ourselves get over the hump," said defenseman Ken Klee, a former Maple Leafs player. "We really needed this. It wasn't pretty by any means, but we'll take this and try to build on it on this road trip."
Mats Sundin, Hal Gill, Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovsky scored for Toronto (3-4-3), which opened with eight of 10 on home ice.
"It's all about the wins right now, and we didn't win," Leafs forward Alex Steen said. "One point is not good enough for us."
Not only did the Thrashers have the NHL's worst record heading in, they were also playing without injured starting goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Antropov and Marian Hossa traded goals early in the shootout, and Kovalchuk ended it by flipping the puck over Vesa Toskala.
"That's the team you don't want to get in a shootout with," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.
The Maple Leafs didn't take advantage in regulation and played tentatively in losing for the fourth time in five games.
"We're (only) playing great in spurts," Leafs forward Jason Blake said. "I don't know why that is. I don't know how we fix it."
Ponikarovsky tied the game with 10 seconds left in the third period by stuffing a shot just under goalie Johan Hedberg, but the Leafs couldn't get the second point in overtime.
Sundin opened the scoring just 13 seconds into the first period. Moments after Atlanta botched a breakout chance, Sundin came out from behind the goal and squeezed a wraparound by Hedberg's pad.
Kovalchuk displayed his speed a little over four minutes later to help the Thrashers tie it. He drew a Maple Leafs defender into the corner on a rush before flipping the puck to Enstrom, who beat Toskala under the arm.
Kovalchuk gave the Thrashers a 2-1 lead with 33 seconds left in the first when he skated into the middle of the offensive zone and beat Toskala with a wrist shot. Toskala could hardly be faulted as he was screened by Antropov and defenseman Pavel Kubina.
Gill drew the Maple Leafs even with his first goal of the season early in the second. The lumbering defenseman intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and skated over the blue line before sending a shot by Hedberg at 1:12.
The Maple Leafs had a glorious chance to take the lead later in the period, but Ponikarovsky missed a wide empty net with a backhand shot. He then took a high-sticking penalty against Darren Haydar. The Thrashers capitalized at 14:12 when Perrin one-timed a shot over the shoulder of a screened Toskala as the penalty expired.
Toronto again climbed back as Antropov followed Jason Blake on a rush and flipped a rebound over Hedberg at 16:19 on a power play.
White snapped a 3-3 tie with 6:58 left in regulation.
Toronto will now play six of seven away from home.
"We've got to be darn good on the road now," Maurice said. "It doesn't matter where you're successful - you've just got to be successful somewhere."
Notes: The shots were even 36-36. ... Atlanta won three of the four meetings between the teams last season. ... Leafs D Anton Stralman made his NHL debut, replacing healthy scratch Andy Wozniewski. ... Tony Salmelainen left Toronto's AHL team and returned to Finland. The forward isn't expected to return and has been suspended.