NHL Game Summary - Florida at Atlanta
(Friday, March 19th)
Final Score: Atlanta 3, Florida 2
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Andy Sutton and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the final two minutes of the third period to rally Atlanta to a 3-2 win over Florida at Philips Arena.
Dany Heatley posted his ninth goal of the season for the Thrashers, who earned their fourth straight victory in the series and won for the third time in four games overall (3-0-0-1). Kari Lehtonen made 19 saves in his NHL debut.
"[Lehtonen] played really well," Florida head coach John Torchetti said. "He was the difference in the first period."
Vaclav Nedorost and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Panthers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped and fell nine points behind the New York Islanders for the final berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Roberto Luongo stopped 12 of his 27 shots in the third period.
Sutton's power-play tally, on a wrist shot from between the circles, forged a 2-2 tie with 1:51 left in the third.
Then Kovalchuk delivered the game-winner 1:27 later. His 39th goal of the season came at a tough angle, on the goal line, to Luongo's left. Serge Aubin set up the goal with a pass from behind the net.
"With [Kovalchuk], one shift can make a difference," Atlanta head coach Bob Hartley said.
Early in the game, Florida forward Nathan Horton was denied on a wrist shot from the left circle by sliding Lehtonen. The Thrashers then killed off a two-man disadvantage less than six minutes into the first period.
The Panthers, who went 1-for-5 with the extra skater in the first, converted on their second 5-on-3 power play of the period. Positioned in the slot, Nedorost gathered a cross-ice pass from the right faceoff circle from Stephen Weiss and pushed the puck past Luongo with 3:57 to go in the period.
Heatley forced a 1-1 tie for the Thrashers 1:30 later. During a delayed penalty, he corralled a rebound between the circles and beat Luongo with a backhand.
During a scoreless second period, Atlanta failed to convert on four power plays but held a 6-4 shots advantage.
"I thought it would be great if [I only faced] 20 shots," Lehtonen said. "The whole team played well in front of me."
Less than six minutes into the third period, Samuelsson's second goal of the season put Florida ahead 2-1. He gathered a loose puck along the back boards, skated around the left side of the net and scored on a high backhand.
Moments later Heatley hit the post with a shot on a breakaway for the Thrashers. Midway through the third, they had another shot hit the post behind Luongo.
Aubin finished with two assists for the Thrashers, who have just one regulation loss in their last seven home games (4-1-0-2)...Florida finished 1- for-6 on the power play...Atlanta was 1-for-8 with the extra skater.
03/20 00:56:22 ET