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Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Atlanta Thrashers 1 FINAL @NHLdotcom

ATLANTA (AP) _ Trevor Kidd didn't stop every shot, but he slowed enough of them down.

Kidd made 25 saves in a rare start to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs past the struggling Atlanta Thrashers 4-1 Friday night.

Alexei Ponikarovsky and Gary Roberts scored less than three minutes apart late in the second period to put the Maple Leafs ahead 3-1. Matt Stajan finished off the Thrashers with a goal about 7{ minutes into the third.

Kidd, making just his seventh start of the season and first since Jan. 8, got all the bounces.

One shot trickled through his pads, giving Marc Savard a fleeting chance to whack it in. Instead, the Atlanta player knocked the puck off the side of the net.

Late in the second, Patrik Stefan unleashed a wicked slap shot coming down left wing. Kidd got part of it, then turned around in time to swat the puck out of the air as it was fluttering toward the net.

``Some crazy things happened out there,'' he said.

Not enough to help the Thrashers, who have only two wins in their last 16 games.

``That's part of being a goalie,'' Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. ``As long as it doesn't cross the red line, you can stop it any way you want. It was a big game for him.''

Injury-plagued Atlanta was bolstered by the return of Savard, who scored his team's lone goal after missing seven games with a sprained knee.

Also, Dany Heatley played his second game for the Thrashers since recovering from a car wreck that killed teammate Dan Snyder.

Heatley didn't make much of an impact, managing only two shots on goal in 19{ minutes. He directed a power play that went 0-for-5.

``I don't know if panic is the right word, but it's definitely gotten to the point where we have to play with desperation every game,'' Savard said. ``We've got to do better every shift.''

Toronto's Robert Reichel opened the scoring early in the second, faking Yannick Tremblay to one knee, then going around the defenseman to beat Byron Dafoe over the left shoulder.

Ilya Kovalchuk pulled off an even more dazzling move to tie the game at 1. Skating away from the boards, he deked Stajan with a nifty bit of stickhandling, then passed across the ice to Savard for a 30-foot slap shot that beat Kidd.

``He's been doing that stuff all year,'' Savard said of Kovalchuk.

But Toronto took control before the period was over.

After Atlanta was whistled for a hand pass, Joe Nieuwendyk won the faceoff to Karel Pilar, who passed to Ponikarovsky streaking off left wing. He beat Dafoe over the right pad at 15:28.

``Until Toronto scored that second goal, we were playing very well as a team,'' Hartley said. ``That second goal seemed to give them lots of energy and took a lot of steam out of our lineup.''

Another nice passing sequence gave the Maple Leafs a two-goal lead at 18:25. Nieuwendyk skated into the Atlanta zone, drawing both defensemen toward him before passing to Roberts. The Toronto wing broke in all alone on Dafoe and scored on a backhander before tumbling headfirst to the ice.

Dafoe sustained a mild concussion during the game _ perhaps from a series of hits _ and was replaced by Pasi Nurminen before the start of the third period. Nurminen didn't start because of the flu.

Stajan made things comfortable for the Maple leafs with his seventh goal _ a thing of beauty. He split two Atlanta players, avoided a third and lifted a backhander over Nurminen's left shoulder.

``In junior hockey, I had goals as pretty as that one,'' Stajan said. ``But yes, in the NHL, that was the prettiest one I ever scored.''

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