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NHL Game Summary - Atlanta at New Jersey

(Friday, February 27th)

Final Score: Atlanta 3, New Jersey 2

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - Dany Heatley scored the game-winning goal late in the third period and assisted on another as the Atlanta Thrashers skated past the New Jersey Devils, 3-2, at the Meadowlands.

Garnet Exelby and Patrik Stefan also lit the lamp as the Thrashers won for the first time in three games (1-2-0). Pasi Nurminen made just 15 saves for the win.

Atlanta was without the services of leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who was scratched for missing a team meeting earlier in the day. Second-leading scorer Marc Savard left the game in the second period after a knee-on-knee collision with Scott Gomez and did not return.

"If you want the reason why he [Kovalchuk] didn't play, he has the reason," said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley. "You better ask him. He knows. I don't know what happened."

Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias tallied for the Devils, whose three-game win streak came to an end. Martin Brodeur turned aside 20 of the 23 shots he faced for the loss in head coach Pat Burns' 1000th career game. Burns became the 11th bench boss in NHL history to reach the milestone and was honored in a pre-game ceremony.

"It's special," said Burns. "I want to thank the organization and the league too. It's the game that's the main thing though once the puck is dropped. Right now I'm disappointed we lost."

With the game tied 2-2, Heatley, standing in the high slot, was able to get a piece of a wrist shot from the point by Andy Sutton to put Atlanta in front for good.

New Jersey pulled Brodeur in the final minute, but could not muster any good scoring chances. The team managed just five shots in the final 20 minutes.

The deciding goal came about 10 minutes after Heatley just missed an opportunity to break the 2-2 tie. He was just inches from getting the Thrashers back on top when his shot from the goal line went through Brodeur and glanced off the far post.

"It was a good game," added Hartley. "We played north to south hockey. We were physical, and we scored some timely goals."

After a scoreless first period, both teams exhibited some scoring punch with a flurry of four goals in a span of 2:14.

Exelby registered his first NHL goal to start things off as he capitalized on a bad clearing attempt by New Jersey's Michael Rupp. Exelby held the puck in at the blue line and flipped a wrister on goal that short hopped Brodeur and got through to give Atlanta the 1-0 edge with 12:10 remaining.

The Devils bounced right back with a goal just 30 seconds after as Elias intercepted Exelby's clear at the back boards. Elias continued skating behind the net and quickly slid the puck across to Gionta for the easy tap-in.

Stefan's ninth of the season handed the lead back to Atlanta just 1:20 later on a 2-on-1 break with Heatley at the 10:20 mark of the second.

Not to be outdone, Elias netted the equalizer just 24 seconds later, cashing in on a bad defensive zone turnover by the Thrashers. Daniel Tjarnqvist tried to go up the middle to Randy Robitaille, but Robitaille could not handle the pass. Gomez tapped it ahead to Elias for his 28th tally of the season and eight in the last five games.

Later in the period, the Devils' Grant Marshall was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure, giving Atlanta a seven-minute power play. However, the advantage was virtually wiped out by three minor penalty on Atlanta.

Game Notes

Atlanta has scored a power-play goal in its last seven games...The Thrashers improved to just 4-12-3 all-time against New Jersey, and 3-6-1 at the Meadowlands...The Devils' top line of Elias, Gionta, and Gomez had a strong game, combining for four points. The trio has compiled 28 points in the last four tilts.

02/28 00:49:06 ET

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