Kovalchuk assists on game-winning and game-clinching goals
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Uniondale, N.Y. — Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t score a goal to celebrate his 500th NHL game. He did just about everything else.
Kovalchuk assisted on the game-winning and game-clinching goals Tuesday night in the Thrashers’ 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders. That gave him his 500th and 501st NHL points.
He also carried the puck all over the ice, blocked three shots and put four shots on net.
“It’s always good when we win,” Kovalchuk said when asked about achieving the scoring and games-played landmarks. “It’s a pretty good moment, but I hope it’s way more points in front of me and way more wins.
“I want to get more playoff experience. Hopefully, we’re going to be better, and I can get 500 games in the playoffs.”
Not everything is perfect in Kovalchuk’s world. His team heads to the Christmas break 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, and he went a sixth consecutive game without scoring a goal, matching his longest goal-less streak in five years.
Bryan Little filled the breach Tuesday night with a pair of goals, both on rebounds. His off-balance backhander following a Kovalchuk slap shot from the point broke a 2-2 tie 7:42 into the final period.
“It’s awesome,” Little said of sharing the power play with Kovalchuk. “I was pretty excited when I got drafted here, because he was someone I liked to watch on TV. He’s a great player. He’s just so skilled. Every day it’s a treat just to watch him.”
Kovalchuk’s other assist came when he passed to Colby Armstrong for an empty-net goal. Kovalchuk might have been able to beat a defender and score himself, but he chose the sure play to Armstrong. It was Armstrong’s fifth goal in as many games.
Kovalchuk has 11 goals, tied for third on the team behind Slava Kozlov’s 15 and Little’s 14. On his current pace, Kovalchuk would score 27 goals this season, the fewest in his career.
“When we’re losing and you don’t find the back of the net, that’s disappointing me a lot,” he said. “When you’re winning, you don’t care.”
Unfortunately for Kovalchuk and his teammates, they have only one more game against the Islanders. The Thrashers are 3-0 against the Islanders this season; that’s a quarter of Atlanta’s 12 victories.
The Islanders are winless in their last 10 games. The Thrashers have won three of their last five games but badly needed a victory Tuesday after a miserable showing Monday night in a 6-2 loss to Toronto.
Mathieu Schneider scored the first Atlanta goal on a shot from the point. Little made it 2-0 with a second-effort follow shot. The play began with Ron Hainsey’s shot from the point; Kozlov and White touched the puck before it reached Little.
White’s assist gave him the Thrashers’ longest scoring streak this season, seven games.
Tuesday night, though, the focus was on Kovalchuk, who’s still only 25, though in his seventh NHL season. He’s under contract with the Thrashers through 2009-10. He leads the franchise in career games played, goals (265), assists (236) and points.
“He’s a great player, and he’s going to score a lot more,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, it’s a lot more as an Atlanta Thrasher, his whole career’s spent here.”