Thrashers survive for shootout win

ATLANTA - With 40 percent of their road games already out of the way, the Atlanta Thrashers have a highly favorable schedule the rest of the season.

The trick is making Philips Arena a place for opponents to dread. So far, there hasn't been much of a home-ice edge.

"With so many games at home, we have to start winning them," Marian Hossa said.

Added Eric Perrin, "We have to establish this as a hard place to play. So far we haven't."

Wednesday night was a start in that direction, although the Thrashers were hardly at their best in a 4-3 shootout victory against the struggling New York Islanders.

"At least we found a way to win," said Hossa, who had a goal and an assist.

The difference was shootout scores by Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk. "Those Russians are (darn) good," Hossa said of the Thrashers' shootout specialists.

With the victory, the Thrashers (13-13-1) moved into second place in the NHL's Southeast Division. The Islanders (13-11-2) are winless in their past four games.

Atlanta needed the shootout after starting slowly and then blowing a two-goal lead. The Thrashers scored twice short-handed, but were 0-for-9 on the power play.

"I don't care where it is, we just have to win," said goalie Kari Lehtonen, who stopped Mike Guerin and Miroslav Satan in the shootout.

Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro stopped Hossa to start the shootout, but couldn't do the same against Kozlov or Kovalchuk.

The victory was just the fifth in 11 home games for the Thrashers, who are 8-7-1 away from Atlanta.

"We seem to have more intensity on the road, especially at the start," said Perrin, who had two assists.

That obviously has to change. The Thrashers have nine games at Philips Arena in December - the most of any month this season.

The Thrashers went 11-4-0 after their 0-6-0 start, but had gone 1-3-1 in their past five games.

"There was no flow because of all the penalties," Thrashers general manager and interim coach Don Waddell said. "But the end result is that we came out with the two points we wanted."

The visiting Thrashers dominated the Islanders in New York on Saturday, scoring all their goals in the first period for a 4-0 victory.

Lehtonen had the shutout in his first game back from a groin injury, making 33 saves. But the Islanders solved him early this time. Mike Comrie scored midway through the first period, converting a long rebound as the goalie was slow getting back in position after stopping a shot by Chris Simon.

The Thrashers were outshot 9-6 in the first period despite having four power plays to just one for the Islanders. The second period was a different story, however, as Atlanta appeared to take control.

DiPietro was blitzed for three goals - two with his team on a power play. Hossa and Pascal Dupuis had the short-handed goals, with Perrin assisting on both. Perrin has a helper on all five of the Thrashers' short-handed goals this season.

Kovalchuk had the Thrashers' even-strength goal in the period blasting a one-timer past DiPietro on a pin-point pass from Hossa. It was the league-leading 23rd goal for Kovalchuk.

But the Islanders cut the Thrashers' lead to 3-2 on a goal by Mike Sillinger with 19 seconds left in the second period. The veteran center tipped in a blast by former Thrashers defenseman Andy Sutton.

Then the Islanders tied it 7:32 into the third period, their struggling power play finally coming through. Lehtonen was screened by Josef Vasicek and had little chance on Trent Hunter's blast from the point.

It was the first time the Islanders, the NHL's lowest scoring team, had reached three goals since Nov. 6 - a stretch of 14 games.

The Thrashers had a power play for the first 78 seconds of overtime, but managed just one shot. The Islanders had the best chance in the extra five minutes with Vasicek's shot hitting off the post.

Atlanta lost a shootout at New Jersey on Sunday. But this time the Thrashers weren't to be denied.