Kovalchuk has hat trick as Atlanta Thrashers beats Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4

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TAMPA, Fla. - The Atlanta Thrashers may have turned it around after a dismal start.

Pascal Dupuis scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period and Ilya Kovalchuk had his second consecutive three-goal game, helping the Thrashers rally for a 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

Dupuis put Atlanta ahead 5-4 from the low slot off a pass from Bryan Little with 2:08 left. Kovalchuk, who had a hat trick in Thursday night's loss to Ottawa, completed another three-goal performance with an empty-net goal with 1:22 to play.

"When you're in the NHL, you never know what's going to happen," Kovalchuk said. "It was unbelievable. It was a great feeling."

The Thrashers battled back from a three-goal second-period deficit, tying it 4-all when Kovalchuk scored his second goal of the game from the left circle at 7:21 of the third.

Kovalchuk has four goals in three games against Tampa Bay this season after scoring just once in eight games with the Lightning last season.

"He's going as good as I've seen him go," Atlanta general manager and interim coach Don Waddell said. "This is outstanding."

Atlanta had three goals on five shots in the final period. Thrashers rookie Ondrej Pavelec, who made his first career NHL start and third appearance overall, had 11 of his 30 saves in the third.

"I'm not making any assessments," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "It's what it is. Three goals on five shots. We pounded away chance after chance and couldn't score. They come down and score."

Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist allowed five goals and 21 shots.

Tampa Bay's Shane O'Brien snapped a personal 76-game goal-scoring drought, scoring twice in the first. Michel Ouellet and Brad Richards also scored for the Lightning, who are 5-1-1 at home this season.

Tobias Enstrom and Marian Hossa had the other Atlanta goals. The Thrashers (5-9-0) are 5-3-0 under Waddell.

"The first six games, we had a hard time scoring and our confidence level was a little bit shattered," Waddell said. "The team's over that now. No lead is safe at this point. Our guys are hungry and there's no quit in them."

O'Brien, who entered with just two goals in 92 career NHL games, put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 on his first-period goals. After the defenceman tied it at 11:10 when he redirected Vinny Prospal's pass in the low slot, O'Brien gave the Lightning a one-goal lead from the blue line with 2:06 left in the period.

Ouellet made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 4:50 of the second. Richards extended the Tampa Bay advantage to 4-1 during a 5-on-3 power play at 14:26.

Kovalchuk and Hossa scored 1:01 apart late in the second to get Atlanta within 4-3. Kovalchuk had a short-handed goal at 15:23 before Hossa got his first goal in seven games with 3:36 remaining in the period.

Enstrom put the Thrashers up 1-0 on a power-play goal at 9:28 of the first.

The Lightning are 0-4-1 in their last five games. It's their longest losing streak since a six-game skid in November 2005.

"It's terrible, you know?" O'Brien said. "It's the worst feeling when you're in one of these funks."

Notes: Atlanta is 1-2 at Tampa Bay this season. The Thrashers won't play in Tampa again until March 31, which is the Lightning's last home game of the regular season. ... O'Brien's skid started after he scored a goal on Nov. 9, 2006, against Vancouver while with Anaheim.



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