Thrashers outlast Hurricanes

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ATLANTA – Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 51st goal to offset Justin Williams’ two-goal effort and keep the Atlanta Thrashers’ slim playoff hopes alive with a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Thrashers have won two of three, but remain six points behind Tampa Bay for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes, who are tied with Ottawa for first in the East, saw their three-game winning streak end.

Kovalchuk scored his NHL-leading 26th power-play goal to make it 3-0 with 1:58 left in the first period.

Williams closed the gap to 3-1 early in the second period when he took Rod Brind’Amour’s pass across the bottom of the slot to beat Atlanta goalie Mike Dunham.

Peter Bondra restored the three-goal advantage with his 19th goal 1:05 later. Scott Mellanby added another goal to make it 5-1 early in the third period before Williams ended the scoring with a snap wrister from the slot midway through the third.

Marc Savard opened the scoring with his 28th goal 3:19 into the first period. Serge Aubin extended the lead 11 seconds after Jim Slater missed a penalty shot.

Dunham, who started for the first time in 29 games, had 23 saves.

Martin Gerber made 29 saves for the Hurricanes.

Notes: Bondra now has 496 career goals, which ranks ninth among active players. … Mellanby scored his 800th career point. … Eric Stahl, Carolina’s leading scorer with 44 goals, was frustrated after taking first-period penalties and getting his helmet knocked off with 11 minutes remaining. Atlanta’s Andy Sutton was called for hooking on the play, but Stahl responded by earning his 52nd assist.

AP-ES-04-08-06 2159EDT

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