Thrashers Take Back Division Lead


Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 5:50 am
By: News On 6


ATLANTA (AP) _ On a night of milestones, the only number that mattered to the Atlanta Thrashers was their place in the Southeast Division.

``Slowly but surely, we're building home-ice advantage, and it's such a key,'' coach Bob Hartley said after the Thrashers went back on top of the division by beating the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Monday night.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots.

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals for Washington, including his 40th of the season.

Slava Kozlov scored the first goal of the game for Atlanta, giving him 300 in the NHL along with 700 points.

``It's a great feeling to score 300,'' Kozlov said.

The big, round career numbers are nice, but the focus for March is the race for the Thrashers' first playoff appearance.

Eric Boulton set up goals by Bobby Holik and Keith Tkachuk in the win. Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored as Atlanta moved two points ahead of Tampa Bay in the division race.

``It's great for our confidence,'' Boulton said. ``Come playoff time, to get home ice advantage is huge, and for us to gain confidence here is great. It's a great atmosphere here.''

The Thrashers play six of their final 11 regular-season games at home.

In other NHL games, it was Calgary 5, St. Louis 4 in a shootout; Phoenix 4, Philadelphia 0; and Los Angeles 5, Edmonton 1.

Washington dropped its eighth straight and fell to 2-16 in road games since Dec. 26.

With his two goals, Ovechkin has seven goals and six assists in seven games against Atlanta this season. In 15 career games versus the Thrashers, Ovechkin has 12 goals and 14 assists.

``He has a pretty good record against everybody,'' Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. ``There aren't many teams he's missing out on.''

The second-year star is the fourth player in Capitals history with more than one 40-goal season.

``I try to do my best,'' Ovechkin said. ``I play for my team. I'm a scorer.''

Ovechkin said he tries to avoid keeping a close watch on his goals total.

``If I think about it, I don't score,'' he said.

Ovechkin's power-play goal off the skate of Atlanta's Andy Sutton less than 2 minutes into the third period cut the deficit to 3-2. Kovalchuk answered with his 37th goal midway through the period.

After Kozlov's goal gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period, Boulton set up the play of the game.

Boulton stopped a possible breakaway for the Capitals with a steal and then passed the puck to Holik, who had to lunge forward to gather it. While sliding toward the net on his chest, Holik managed to push the puck past goalie Brent Johnson for a 2-0 lead at 16:51.

``When you get a turnover like that, it is nice to make them pay,'' Boulton said.

Ovechkin's first goal cut Atlanta's lead to 2-1, but Tkachuk answered with his 24th goal of the season. It was his fourth since being traded to the Thrashers by St. Louis on Feb. 25.

With Atlanta leading 3-1, Washington pulled Johnson in favor of Frederic Cassivi.

Johnson, who stopped 12 of 15 shots, hurt himself when trying to make a diving stop on Tkachuk's goal at 14:30 of the second period. Johnson lay face down on the ice for about a minute before struggling to his feet.

Hanlon said Johnson injured ``something like a hamstring or a groin. I am guessing.''

Coyotes 4, Flyers 0

At Glendale, Ariz., Mikael Tellqvist made 24 saves for his second shutout of the season and added an assist to lead Phoenix.

Niko Kapanen scored his first goal and set up another. Owen Nolan, Mathias Tjarnqvist and Daniel Carcillo also scored for the Coyotes, who won for the third time in 15 games. Phoenix has lost 19 of 28.

Martin Biron took a puck to the throat seven minutes into the game but remained in, finishing with 20 saves in his sixth straight start for the Flyers. Philadelphia is 3-2-1 with Biron, acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline.

Kings 5, Oilers 1

At Los Angeles, Noah Clarke became the first native Southern Californian to score for the Kings and Mathieu Garon recorded his first victory in more than two months, sending Edmonton to its eighth straight loss.

Michael Cammalleri had two goals, and Rob Blake had a power-play tally and two assists to help Garon win for the first time in seven starts. Alexander Frolov also scored and Lubomir Visnovsky had three assists for the Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak.

Garon made 26 saves.

Edmonton's skid is three games shy of the franchise record, set during the 1993-94 season.

Flames 5, Blues 4, SO

At Calgary, Alberta, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla scored in the shootout for the host Flames.

After the team's exchanged misses, Tanguay's shot over Jason Bacashihua's glove gave Calgary the edge. Miikka Kiprusoff denied Doug Weight on a deke, giving Iginla the opportunity to clinch it. He whipped a shot into the corner over Bacashihua's blocker.

Kristian Huselius had a goal and three assists for Calgary. David Moss, Daymond Langkow and Dion Phaneuf also scored for the eighth-place Flames, who pulled within one point of Minnesota, Dallas and San Jose in the Western Conference playoff race.

Lee Stempniak scored twice, and Christian Backman and Peter Cajanek added goals for St. Louis.