ATLANTA – Ilya Kovalchuk scored a career-high four goals – all in a row – and the Atlanta Thrashers rallied from an early deficit to beat Tampa Bay 5-2 Friday night and send the defending Stanley Cup champions to their sixth straight loss.

After Atlanta fell behind 2-0 late in the first period, Kovalchuk cut Tampa Bay’s lead in half with 1:49 remaining. He then scored the first three goals of the second period to notch his fourth career hat trick and give the Thrashers a 4-2 advantage.

Marian Hossa added a short-handed goal with 6:29 remaining and helped set up Kovalchuk’s first. Marc Savard had three assists and Niclas Havelid had two for Atlanta, which won two straight for the first time in 34 days.

Improving to 3-1-1 in their last five games, the Thrashers took the lead on the second of Kovalchuk’s three power-play goals at the 14:02 of the second. He stood in the slot with a defender between him and goaltender John Grahame and used a backhanded redirect on Havelid’s slap shot from outside the top of the left circle.

Lightning coach John Tortorella pulled Grahame after the three-goal second period and Gerald Coleman made his NHL debut.

Hossa scored after taking Andy Sutton’s long pass inside the Atlanta blue line and beating Coleman at the right post.

Grahame saved 19 of 23 shots, including a glove stop on Savard’s wrister near the left side of the crease, and fell to 5-8-1. The Thrashers were 1:22 into a two-man disadvantage when Kovalchuk scored his final goal.

Kovalchuk, who tied Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Columbus’ Rick Nash with an NHL-high 41 goals in 2003-04, was at the bottom of the left circle when he took Peter Bondra’s pass and fired the puck between Grahame’s legs to make it 4-2 at 19:43 of the second period.

Tampa Bay has lost two straight to the Thrashers. But the Lightning’s last victory was Oct. 29 in Atlanta.

Dan Boyle’s slashing penalty wiped out Brad Richards’ goal with 18:26 remaining that would have cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 4-3.

Atlanta’s Andy Berkhoel made 34 saves.

Vaclav Prospal’s slap shot from inside the blue line and near the left boards gave Tampa the lead with 6:36 left in the first.

The Lightning went ahead 2-0 when Ruslan Fedotenko took his own rebound and easily beat Berkhoel by faking a wrister in the slot and then scoring wide of the goalie’s stick at 16:12. Prospal earned an assist on Fedotenko’s third of the season.

Kovalchuk, who has nine goals this season, made it 2-1 just two minutes later with a slap shot from the top of the slot. He tied it 12:33 into the second.

Notes: The only other Atlanta player with a four-goal game was Pascal Rheaume, who did it Jan. 19, 2002, at Florida. Kovalchuk had a goal and four assists in that contest. … Bondra played in his 1,000th NHL game. … Cory Sarich gave the Thrashers a two-man advantage in the second when he pushed Slava Kozlov and drew a boarding penalty.

AP-ES-11-11-05 2212EST


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