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Thrashers 6, Panthers 4 @NHLdotcom

ATLANTA (AP) - Ilya Kovalchuk knew his luck had to change soon.

Kovalchuk scored his NHL-leading 36th goal and the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Florida Panthers 6-4 Saturday night to snap a seven-game losing streak.

"It was really tough the last half a month," he said. "I think this game is going to turn other things in a different way for us."

The Thrashers' skid was their worst since opening the 2002-03 season with nine straight losses.

Peter Bondra had two goals, and Marc Savard a goal and two assists for Atlanta's first win since Jan. 18 at Dallas.

With his team coming off a 5-2 loss Friday at Florida in which he committed a crucial turnover, Savard was glad nobody panicked when Chris Gratton made it a two-goal game with 3:51 remaining.

"Late there, it didn't look good," Savard said. "I think we still can play better, and that's good news for us."

Gratton, who had three goals in the last two games, took no pleasure in scoring his 10th of the season.

"It's the same old story," Gratton said. "We weren't feeding off each other. We battled for two periods and then let it slip in the third."

Patrik Stefan's ninth goal with 6:53 remaining gave the Thrashers a 5-3 lead before Bondra made it 6-3 on the power play.

Kovalchuk was coming off a two-game demotion to the third line before starting Saturday.

The score was tied at 3 when Kovalchuk, from about eight feet out, beat Roberto Luongo high on the goaltender's stick side at the 16:01 mark of the second.

"Ilya's goal was a big goal as well as an important goal," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We need everyone's contribution. We have a traffic jam in our conference for the playoffs, and every point will be important."

Scott Mellanby, who made it 1-1 midway through the first with his seventh goal, appeared to tip in Kovalchuk's go-ahead shot, but the Atlanta captain skated over to the officials' box and apparently told the crew that his stick never touched the puck.

"They can score goals," Luongo said. "All of theirs were from four or five feet in front of me."

Bondra's 14th goal, his first since Nov. 26, gave the Thrashers a 3-2 lead early in the second. He was alone at the bottom of the slot when Rico Fata skated down the left side to beat defenseman Lukas Krajicek. Luongo mistakenly moved out of the crease to allow the empty-netter.

"We had some breakdowns," Luongo said. "It was a tough game to be a part of."

Savard set a career high with his 24th goal, which forced a 2-2 tie late in the first and helped Atlanta regain some confidence after converting just six of its previous 65 attempts on the power play.

"They're a team that has excellent skills, and if you give them the opportunity, they'll bury you," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "We gave them too many freebies. They cashed in."

The Panthers dropped to 6-19-4 on the road after leading 1-0 on Nathan Horton's goal, his 21st, at the 3:55 mark of the first. Nearly 7 minutes later, Rob Globke's first career goal put Florida ahead 2-1.

Jon Sim's ninth goal answered Bondra's first score and tied it at 3 midway through the second. Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen, who finished with 28 saves, couldn't find the puck after Gratton's slap shot bounced off his chest pad.

Luongo dropped to 2-6-1 against Atlanta after stopping 21 of 27 shots.

Notes: The Panthers visit Washington and Buffalo before the break. ... Atlanta began the night ranked seventh in the power play despite going just 1-for-11 on Friday. ... Savard had 23 goals for Calgary in 2000-01. ... Stefan limped into tunnel and didn't return not long after he scored.

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