Christensen helps Thrashers end slide in shootout

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By Phil Foley

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Erik Christensen helped the Atlanta

Thrashers open the new year with a rare home win.

Christensen scored the decisive goal in the fourth round of the

shootout as the Thrashers ended a four-game skid Friday with a

4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Ilya Kovalchuk registered a goal and an assist, rookie Joey

Crabb and Vyacheslav Kozlov also tallied in regulation and Kari

Lehtonen made 35 saves for the Thrashers, who also had dropped

three in a row and 10 of 11 at home.

"Hopefully with this win, we can get something going and get

more wins," Lehtonen said. "This is a game we can build on.

It's a good start."

"We can build on this," Christensen agreed. "Never mind the

shootout - our team played well against a very good hockey

club."

Henrik Sedin scored twice and Daniel Sedin netted his

team-leading 19th goal and added a pair of assists in his 600th

career game for Vancouver, which has lost four of six.

"There are no easy games in this league," Canucks coach Alain

Vigneault said. "It was a hard-fought game by both teams."

After a winner failed to emerge after 65 minutes, Pavol Demitra

put the Canucks ahead in the first round of the shootout by

lifting a backhander over the left pad of a sprawled Lehtonen,

who made 35 saves. But Kozlov evened the bonus format on

Atlanta's second opportunity, drifting to the left side of the

net before putting a wrist shot under the crossbar.

Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows missed on their attempts and

Kovalchuk was stopped by netminder Jason LaBarbera, setting the

stage for Christensen.

The much-maligned center, who has appeared in just 25 games this

season, gave the Thrashers the advantage, deking LaBarbera out

of position before sliding the puck into a vacant net.

"I don't know what it is with a shootout, but for what it is,

I'm always very calm," Christensen said. "Everybody has one of

their go-to type moves. I was trying to put the goalie in the

corner of the net with the first move so that I had the whole

net."

"He played pretty good in the last few games," Atlanta coach

John Anderson said. "He is starting to get his confidence

again. He had a couple of chances tonight. When he gets a game

where he gets a couple of goals, it's going to be off to the

races."

Vancouver's last chance, Daniel Sedin had his wrister was

stopped by Lehtonen, giving the Atlanta just its second home win

since November 14.

Luckily for the Thrashers, they were facing LaBarbera, who was

making his second start in as many nights and had stopped just

1-of-7 shots in the bonus format entering Friday.

"My success rate in the shootout hasn't been very good," said

LaBarbera, who fell to 0-4 in shootouts this season. "I would

have liked to come up with one more save."

Crabb opened the scoring nine minutes into the game. After

chasing down a loose puck on the right wing, Crabb unleashed a

blast from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat

LaBarbera to the stick side for a shorthanded goal.

However, Jim Slater was whistled for slashing 35 seconds later,

and the Sedin brothers went to work.

Henrik Sedin tipped in a shot by Daniel from the right side of

the net at 10:26 to knot the contest at 1-1. The 28-year-old

identical twins from Sweden then teamed up in the second period

to put Vancouver in front.

Daniel Sedin slid the puck in front of the net to Henrik, who

chipped it past Lehtonen at 7:14 for a 2-1 edge.

But Kovalchuk, who snapped a career-high nine-game goalless

drought with a tally in Atlanta's 3-1 loss to Carolina on

Wednesday, broke through at home for the first time since

December 12 with 7:36 remaining in the session to forge a tie.

From behind the net, Jason Williams dished the puck to

Kovalchuk, who wristed it past the outstretched glove of

LaBarbera from low in the left circle for his 13th of the

season.

Kozlov put Atlanta ahead with his 16th goal just 3:46 into the

third, but the Sedins struck again with 8:44 left, as Henrik's

wrister from the left point deflected off a defender before

hitting Daniel and entering the net to again tie the game.

"It was a good road game," Henrik Sedin said. "We will take the

points and look forward to our next game on Sunday (against

Dallas)."

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