TORONTO – Alexei Ponikarovsky scored twice and had an assist to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-1 for their season-high fourth straight victory.

Bryan McCabe added a goal and two assists for the Maple Leafs, who also beat Atlanta 9-1 in a fight-filled rout on Oct. 14.

Saturday night’s game featured a lengthy bout between Toronto’s Wade Belak and Atlanta’s Eric Boulton, but no other fights. The Maple Leafs accused Atlanta’s Bob Hartley of “goon coaching” after the 9-1 thrashing in Atlanta.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 14th goal for the Thrashers, who had won four of their previous five games.

Michael Garnett replaced rookie Adam Berkhoel in goal after Berkhoel allowed four goals on 17 shots – three of them high wrist shots. Berkhoel also struggled in his last start, allowing seven goals in Atlanta’s 7-3 home loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Toronto outshot Atlanta 13-2 in the first period and scored three goals. Alexander Steen beat Berkhoel with a wrist shot into the top right hand corner just 50 seconds into the game.

McCabe’s high wrist shot from in front of the net beat Berkhoel at 7:07 of the first, and a sprawled Berkhoel allowed Nik Antropov’s weak shot to trickle under his glove for Toronto’s third goal at 16:40 of the first.

Kovalchuk cut it to 3-1 on the power play late in the first, but Ponikarovsky put a high wrister past Berkhoel at 4:22 the second.

Ponikarovsky made it 5-1 at 9:49 of the second with a shot from the side of the net.

Notes: McCabe leads NHL defenseman with nine goals and 30 points. … Toronto’s Darcy Tucker played despite nursing a charley horse. … In the last 15 games, Kovalchuk has 14 goals and 13 assists. … It was Garnett’s second NHL appearance since Oct. 20. Garnett is one of five goalies used by the injury-plagued Thrashers this season. He was recalled from Chicago of the AHL on Tuesday.

AP-ES-11-19-05 2136EST


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