When: 7 p.m. Thursday
TV, radio: SportSouth (Charter channel 36); 680-AM
Web site: www.atlantathrashers.com
ATLANTA — The Thrashers sure could use more big nights from Ilya Kovalchuk.
He scored two goals and added an assist, and Atlanta held off the Florida Panthers 5-3 Sunday night to end a six-game losing streak.
"It seems like when I score, we win," Kovalchuk said.
Kovalchuk scored both goals — his fourth and fifth — and assisted on Bryan Little’s sixth goal in the second period, giving the Thrashers a 4-1 lead.
Erik Christiansen assisted on both of Kovalchuk’s goals.
The Panthers made it close when Nathan Horton scored at 18:20 of the second period and Noah Welch got his first goal of the season 3:17 into the final period.
"We still gave up too many opportunities," said Kovalchuk, who scored 52 goals last season and has 259 in his six-plus seasons with Atlanta.
"We need to make sure we play defense first. We gave up two soft goals," he said.
Atlanta’s Todd White scored an empty-net goal with 44 seconds remaining to seal the victory. White’s third goal came as he flipped the puck from in front of his net nearly the length of the ice into the middle of the Panthers’ goal.
The Thrashers hadn’t won since Oct. 18, a 3-2 shootout victory over Buffalo. Atlanta (3-7-2) is 3-3 at home.
Kovalchuk’s first goal came at 5:05 when he beat Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun from in close, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead before David Booth scored for the Panthers on a power play. Booth got his fourth goal by poking a wraparound shot past goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 6:47 gone in the second.
It was the first start for rookie Pavelec, who was starting in place of ailing Kari Lehtonen. The 21-year-old was recalled Saturday from Chicago of the AHL and played the final period in a 6-1 loss at New Jersey. He stopped all six shots in that game after Johan Hedberg gave up six goals in the first two periods.
"The guys in front of me played great and did a good job and that’s why we won," said Pavelec, who stopped 18 of 21 shots. "We played more defensive."
Kovalchuk made it 3-1 with a power-play score when he stickhandled past three Panthers before flipping the puck past Vokoun and into the upper right corner of the net as he was falling at the 10:39 mark.
"You have to finish your play," Kovalchuk said.