NHL Game Summary - Tampa Bay at Atlanta
(Saturday, October 3rd)
Final Score: Atlanta 6, Tampa Bay 3
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley each had two goals and an assist, as the Atlanta Thrashers rolled over the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-3, in the season-opener for these Southeast Division foes.
Anssi Salmela and Zach Bogosian also tallied for Atlanta, which defeated Tampa Bay in last season's finale, but ended up 35-41-6 to record its second losing campaign in a row.
The Thrashers, who avoided blowing a 4-0 lead, got two assists each from Bryan Little and Tobias Enstrom, as well as 36 saves from Ondrej Pavelec, to take the victory Saturday.
"Last year we won the first game, too," Kovalchuk said. "We've got a big [five-game] road trip ahead of us, we need to get at least 50 percent of the points. We feel very good about ourselves, but it's just the start, and we're going to improve our game."
Martin St. Louis had two goals to pace the Lightning, who have lost 10 in a row dating back to last season, when they finished with the second-lowest point total in the league. Tampa Bay had 66 (24-40-18), above only the Islanders' 61.
Mike Smith allowed all six goals on 28 shots in the setback.
"Disappointed, I was looking for a better start than that, obviously," Smith said. "Tough one to swallow. But it's a long year, so, try and get over it quickly."
Atlanta had a 4-0 lead before the Lightning mounted a comeback thanks to St. Louis, who scored his first goal with just under six minutes left in the middle period. His power-play tally with 45 seconds remaining made it a 4-2 game, while Andrej Meszaros got Tampa within one 2:11 into the third.
But the Thrashers staved off the comeback with a power-play goal of their own. Past the midway point of the final period, Kovalchuk fired a blast from the blue line that Smith stopped. However, the goaltender couldn't control the rebound, and Peverley stuffed in the rebound with 8:08 remaining.
"Their power-play goal to make it 5-3 was kind of a backbreaker," St. Louis said. "But we'll bounce back. We're not going to let this game dictate our season. There's 81 games to go, so there's no sense to panic here."
Kovalchuk added his second goal about 1 1/2 minutes later, and Atlanta cruised from there.
Kovalchuk opened the game's scoring, as a flurry in front of the net resulted in a goal at the 8:20 mark. About three minutes later, Eric Boulton fed a pass from the right side of the ice to the left circle for Salmela, who lifted the puck over Smith into the net, and Atlanta carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Bogosian and Peverley scored in the middle portion of the second period to increase the Thrashers' lead to four.
Atlanta has won four in a row over Tampa Bay, having gone 4-2 against the Lightning last season. The Thrashers won last season's finale by a 6-2 score...Atlanta defenseman Pavel Kubina, a free agent addition, had an assist...Vincent Lecavalier had an assist for the Lightning.
10/03 22:39:40 ET