Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Thrashers 6, Lightning 3

CBSSports.com wire reports

ATLANTA -- Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers know better than to put too much stock in a season-opening win.

"Last year we won the first game, too," said Kovalchuk after he scored two goals in Atlanta's 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Rich Peverley also scored two goals, Ondrej Pavelec stopped 36 shots and the Thrashers recovered after almost blowing a 4-0 lead.

The Lightning, also playing their opener, had two second-period goals by Martin St. Louis before cutting the Atlanta lead to 4-3 on a tip-in by Andrej Meszaros early in the third period.

Atlanta ended the comeback as Peverley and Kovalchuk each scored their second goals.

"Obviously, we were expecting a better result," St. Louis said. "We're not going to let this define our season. There's no need to panic."

Anssi Salmela and Zach Bogosian also scored for Atlanta, which finished ahead of only Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division last season.

The 22-year-old Pavelec earned the starting job in the preseason as Kari Lehtonen continues to recover from offseason back surgery.

"He kept us in the game early on," said Thrashers coach John Anderson of Pavelec. "I thought our defense helped him out."

Added Pavelec: "We stepped up like a team today. We played great defensively and stayed disciplined."

Defense was the big problem for the Thrashers last season as they ranked 29th in the league with their 3.40 goals against average. They also ranked 29th on the penalty kill.

Mike Smith, who had 22 stops for Tampa Bay, said "the bounce went their way."

"The bottom line is, bounce or not, you have to find a way to make saves," Smith said. "We were looking for a better start than that. It's tough to swallow, but it's a long season and we'll get over it quickly."

Atlanta's 18-year-old Evander Kane, the fourth overall pick in the June draft, set up Peverley with a pass from the slot to the right circle, giving the Thrashers a 4-0 lead.

"He played wonderful," said Anderson of Kane. "He played very well. He will get more ice time."

Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, the second overall pick, earned his first assist on the first goal by St. Louis.

St. Louis scored again on a power play with 45 seconds remaining in the second period to cut Atlanta's lead to 4-2.

Tampa Bay drafted the 6-foot-6 Hedman and acquired Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker and Kurtis Foster in the offseason in hopes of improving its defense.

The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Kovalchuk and Salmela. Smith deflected Kovalchuk's shot, but Tampa Bay's Paul Ranger's stick hit the puck into the net.

Bogosian, the third overall pick in 2008, scored from the left circle midway through the second period. Peverley earned an assist on Bogosian's goal before scoring for the 4-0 lead.

The game was the first season-opener for Rick Tocchet as Tampa Bay's coach. He was named coach on Nov. 18, 2008.


British Open champion Stewart Cink, a former Georgia Tech golfer who lives near Atlanta, received a loud ovation when introduced between periods. ... Tobias Enstrom and Bryan Little each had two assists for Atlanta, which plays its next five games on the road. ... Atlanta's Chris Thornburn and Tampa Bay's Zenon Konopka drew five-minute fighting penalties less than a minute after the Thrashers took a 4-0 lead in the second period. Atlanta's Eric Boulton and Tampa Bay's Todd Fedoruk went to the box for five minutes after trading punches 4:52 into the third period. "It was a well-timed fight," said Anderson.

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Tampa Bay (0-1-0)0213
Atlanta  (1-0-0) «2226
Three Stars
I. Kovalchuk

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
R. Peverley

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
O. Pavelec

Saves: 36
Save Pct.: .923

Related Video

Scoring Summary
08:20Ilya Kovalchuk (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Little, Kubina
11:23Anssi Salmela (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Boulton, Thorburn
09:01Power Play - Zach Bogosian (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Peverley, Enstrom
12:42Power Play - Rich Peverley (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Kane
14:01Short - Martin St. Louis (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Hedman, Ohlund
19:15Martin St. Louis (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Stamkos, Tanguay
02:11Short - Andrej Meszaros (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Walker, Lecavalier
11:52Power Play - Rich Peverley (2), Snap Shot. Assist: Kovalchuk, Afinogenov
13:15Power Play - Ilya Kovalchuk (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Little, Enstrom
Penalty Summary
01:12Tanguay, 2 min, High-Sticking
15:14Afinogenov, 2 min, Holding
15:14Meszaros, 2 min, Holding
18:54Foster, 2 min, Tripping
07:44Fedoruk, 2 min, Cross-Checking
07:44Kovalchuk, 2 min, Slashing
07:44Veilleux, 2 min, Unsportsmanlike Conduct
07:44Popovic, 2 min, Unsportsmanlike Conduct
13:11Konopka, 5 min, Fighting
13:11Thorburn, 5 min, Fighting
17:42Kubina, 2 min, Holding
18:05Malone, 2 min, Cross-Checking
18:31Kovalchuk, 2 min, Hooking
04:52Boulton, 5 min, Fighting
04:52Fedoruk, 5 min, Fighting
05:24Salmela, 2 min, Roughing
10:06Ranger, 2 min, Hooking
13:47Konopka, 2 min, Roughing
13:47White, 2 min, Roughing
13:47Veilleux, 10 min, Misconduct
Shots On Goal
Tampa Bay12131439
Mike Smith59:55226
Ondrej Pavelec60:00363
Game Information
Attendance - 18545
Referees - Eric Furlatt, Kevin Pollock
Linesmen - Steve Miller, Jonny Murray
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