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Associated Press
10/23/2006 10:26:13 PM


SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Ilya Kovalchuk scored three power-play goals Monday night to help the Atlanta Thrashers continue the best start in franchise history with a 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Atlanta (7-1-1) has 15 points, the most ever for the Thrashers in October.

Marian Hossa and Steve Rucchin also scored on the power play for the Thrashers, who also got a goal from former Florida captain Scott Mellanby. Vyacheslav Kozlov had four assists.

Atlanta finished 5-for-7 on the power play. The Thrashers entered the game 4-for-31 with the man advantage.

Florida, which entered the game first in the league in power-play efficiency at 27.9, was 0-for-6.

Joel Kwiatkowski, Bryan Allen and Jozef Stumpel scored for Florida, which lost at home for the first time in five games.

Atlanta is 3-0 against Florida this season. The Thrashers beat the Panthers 4-2 at Atlanta on Saturday night.

Kari Lehtonen, who has started every game for Atlanta, made 25 saves.

Florida goalie Alex Auld (3-3-1) gave up five goals on 19 shots before being pulled after the second period with the Panthers trailing 5-2. Ed Belfour stopped seven of eight shots in the third.

Atlanta trailed 2-0 before Kovalchuk scored his first goal at 17:55 of the first period on a one-timer from the slot.

The Thrashers then took advantage of a 5-on-3 to score twice in 36 seconds in the second.

Hossa tied the game 2-2 with his sixth goal in four games when he took a pass across the crease from Mellanby. Kovalchuk then stopped a clearing attempt by Florida in the slot and beat Auld with a wrist shot just under the crossbar.

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Great to see Kovalchuk net in three goals. They were all nice shots too. The first one on the powerplay from the point was a rocket. The next two looked very similiar with a wrist shot from the slot into the top right corner. Nice to see the Thrashers now 7-1-1.
 
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