Goal and assist caps a busy weekend for Ilya Kovalchuk

This wasn’t your normal weekend for Thrashers superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovy followed up the birth of his son, Philipp, with a two-point day vs. Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, albeit in a losing effort. Kovalchuk has taken off recently and is now Atlanta’s leading goal scorer with 22 goals, one ahead of Bryan Little. Kovy is also the team’s leader in points with 52.

Kovalchuk gets goal, assist, son

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Philipp Kovalchuk came into this world Saturday morning.

“He’s a big boy,” said his father, Ilya Kovalchuk. “Hopefully, we’re going to give him a stick pretty soon.”

Dad celebrated the occasion with a goal and an assist Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers. A victory? Even such a blessed occasion couldn’t produce a miracle like that.

The Thrashers’ losing streak against the Flyers reached 14 games, the latest by a 3-2 score. The streak is almost as old as the Kovalchuks’ other child, 3-year-old Carolina.

It annoys the Thrashers players, and it annoys their fans. “Reverse the Curse,” read the sign waving Sunday in Section 320 of Philips Arena.

Maybe the sign writer should have specified which curse.

Slava Kozlov reversed the curse that had kept him goal-less in more than a month. The Thrashers’ power play reversed the curse that had made it 1 for 33 in the last nine-plus games. And the Thrashers reversed the curse of lethargy that had bedeviled them in most of the games since the All-Star break.

But the curse of Antero Niittymaki remained as strong as ever. The Flyers goalie has a 13-0 career record against the Thrashers. The only streak like it in the NHL belongs to Detroit’s Chris Osgood, who is 17-0 lifetime against Tampa Bay.

Niittymaki made 29 saves Sunday.

“He always rises against the Thrash, or so I understand,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “We haven’t beaten him in four games since I’ve been here. Maybe it’s the Niittymaki Curse or something.”

The Thrashers lost for the sixth time in seven games, a stretch that started with a game in Philadelphia right before the All-Star break. They haven’t scored in the first period of any of those seven games, and they’ve scored just one goal in the second period.

At least they generated some scoring chances on Sunday. That might have been partly due to some new lines, with Kovalchuk playing alongside Todd White and Bryan Little and Kozlov playing alongside Rich Peverley and Joe Motzko.

The Thrashers outshot the Flyers 31-23.

“We had a lot more jump. … We gave ourselves a chance to win, anyways,” Anderson said.

“Our overall effort was better. We played smarter. It still was not good enough.”

And it still didn’t produce many goals. Both of the Thrashers’ scores came on third-period power plays, with the old combination of Kozlov, White and Little, plus Kovalchuk at the point alongside Ron Hainsey or Mathieu Schneider.

Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter scored twice and has 34 goals this season, three behind NHL leader Alex Ovechkin. Carter assisted on the other Flyers goal, scored by Joffrey Lupul.

The Flyers, hot off an overtime victory Saturday at Boston, moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Thrashers are next to last in the NHL, four points ahead of the New York Islanders.

Someday, perhaps, Atlanta will beat Philadelphia. Someday, perhaps, Philipp Kovalchuk’s father will get to talk more about what went right than what went wrong.

“Hopefully, when he’s going to be at the games, we’re going to win most of them,” Ilya Kovalchuk said.