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Recchi's shootout goal lifts Thrashers to win
Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal (11), right, tries to get his stick around Atlanta Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, left, of Russia, during the third period Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The Thrashers won, 3-2, during the shootout. - photo by Gregory Smith/AP

ATLANTA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins gave up on Mark Recchi in December, when he had only eight points in 19 games.

Recchi has since proved his 19-year career is not over. He appeared to enjoy making that point with the Penguins and their coach, Michel Therrien, watching on Saturday night.

Recchi, playing against his former Pittsburgh teammates for the first time since his release, scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Atlanta Thrashers a 3-2 win over the Penguins.

"They doubted my ability to play," the 39-year-old Recchi said.

"I wanted to go out and do well. For 19 years I've been doing that."

Recchi has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 17 games since joining the Thrashers. He now plays with All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk on Atlanta's first line.

"I'm thankful that Don Waddell and the Thrashers gave me the opportunity to show I can still play," Recchi said, adding he still had warm feelings for his former teammates.

"There were a lot of smiles," he said. "I still have some friends there."

Recchi, claimed on re-entry waivers by Atlanta on Dec. 8, also had an assist as the Thrashers snapped the Penguins' eight-game winning streak. Pittsburgh suffered its first loss since Dec. 21 against the New York Islanders.

Recchi savored his role in snapping Pittsburgh's winning streak.

"It's nice. I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "We needed the point more than they do right now. Obviously, it feels good."

Sidney Crosby scored two goals for Pittsburgh, but he and three teammates were denied in the shootout by Kari Lehtonen.

When asked if the loss felt any different because Recchi scored the game-winner, Therrien said, "Not at all," before adding "it was a nice goal."

Waddell added: "You couldn't write a better script. The goal he scored was a great goal. I thought about putting him in our top three, but our top three have been pretty good all year, so I decided to save him for the fourth shot and he came through."

Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar is happy Recchi is enjoying a career revival in Atlanta.

"When you play against him, he is not your friend," Gonchar said.

Recchi went fourth for Atlanta in the shootout. Slava Kozlov, Marian Hossa and Kovalchuk were stopped by Ty Conklin, who got his first loss in 10 decisions with Pittsburgh.

Recchi hesitated slightly before shooting past Conklin into the right side of the net. Conklin stopped 36 shots. He started each of the eight straight wins.

"That's kind of my bread and butter," Recchi said. "I saw the other shots and he made good saves. I was pretty relaxed. I wanted to make sure I made the right move. I wanted to make him stop before I made the move."

Lehtonen then stopped a shot by Evgeni Malkin to end the game.

Lehtonen opened the shootout with glove stops against Petr Sykora and Kris Letang before deflecting a try by Crosby.

Kovalchuk scored his league-leading 37th goal in the first period for Atlanta. Kovalchuk has goals in four straight games.

The Thrashers outshot the Penguins 38-31, only the seventh time they have had more shots on goal than their opponent. They are 6-1 in those games.

Crosby opened the scoring with a first-period goal, knocking in a rebound after Lehtonen stopped a shot by Ryan Whitney 5:23 into the game.

About 4 minutes later, Kovalchuk answered with a power-play goal on an assist from Recchi. Kovalchuk pumped his right fist after his shot from the left circle.

Crosby looked almost unstoppable as he gave the lead back to Pittsburgh early in the second period. Crosby skated around Eric Boulton in front of the right circle before skating behind the net, giving up the puck and then scoring on the pass from Kris Letang.

Crosby had his fifth two-goal game of the season and his first since Nov. 30 against Dallas.

Hossa earned an assist on a tying goal by Bobby Holik 1:40 into the third period. Hossa's shot was blocked by Conklin, but Holik followed by pushing the puck past the sprawling goalie.<

Notes:@ The Thrashers played their second straight shootout, following a 3-2 home loss to Florida on Thursday. ... Conklin had allowed no more than one goal in three straight wins and gave up two goals for only the second time in seven games. ... Attendance was 18,545 for the Thrashers' fifth sellout.

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