Hartley was less familiar with Eric Belanger and Pascal Dupuis, but he likes what he sees so far. “Even though we make trades, we don’t know players as well as when we coach them,” Hartley said. “But we always have an idea of what kind of players they are, and we try to match them with players who can cause damage.”
Slava Kozlov scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, Eric Belanger had two goals to help the Thrashers end a five-game home losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
Ottawa snapped a three-game winning streak and fell to 8-1-1 since a Feb. 7 loss at Buffalo.
Dany Heatley, booed throughout the game by fans still upset over his trade request from the Thrashers in August 2005, kept up his torrid pace with the puck, scoring twice on the power play for his 39th and 40th goals of the season.
His second goal gave the Senators a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
“I thought we really dominated them in the second and, for whatever reason, we didn’t play very well in the third,” Heatley said. “We kind of lost our aggressiveness and just sat back and waited for them.”
The Thrashers began the night with just six points in nine home games since a Jan. 16 victory over Los Angeles. But Belanger, who made it 1-0 in the first, forced a 2-2 tie early in the third with his 13th goal.
Tkachuk, a 15th-year forward, and Zhitnik, a 14th-year defenceman, have combined for six all-star appearances. The expectations aren’t as pronounced for players like Belanger and Dupuis, but they want to make the most of their chances.
“This team is fighting for its life now,” Belanger said. “Coming back in the third period showed a lot of character.”
Dupuis’ 12th goal, his first since the New York Rangers traded him to Atlanta on Tuesday, came on a breakaway backhander that ended the scoring with 4:56 remaining.
“It kind of jumped on me,” Dupuis said of his goal. “To get that first one out of the way was good.”
Six minutes earlier, Kozlov’s 21st goal made it 3-2 with a shot from the right circle. Taking control of the puck after Andrej Meszaros slammed Marian Hossa into the rear boards, Kozlov fired into a crowded crease that appeared to block goaltender Ray Emery’s vision.
“We forechecked and were skating so much better than them in the second, and then we just couldn’t control the breakout too many times and let them get momentum,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said. “Once they got ahead, they backed up pretty well and shut us down.”
Heatley, who began the night tied for third place in goals, has nine goals and eight assists in the past 10 games. On his first goal, Heatley navigated through traffic to beat Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen with a wrist shot from the left circle.
“We lost the game,” Heatley said. “That’s all that matters. On their second and fourth goal, we gave them too much running room and too much time to get wound up in the zone.”
Thrashers defenceman Niclas Havelid appeared to block Lehtonen’s view long enough for Heatley to slide the puck between the goalie’s pads.
Wade Redden had his 23rd and 24th assists for the Senators. Emery, who earned his fifth shutout in a 2-0 victory over Carolina on Wednesday, stopped 20 of 24 shots.
Kari Lehtonen finished with 21 saves for the Thrashers.
Notes: Hossa’s 45th assist came on Belanger’s first goal and his 46th on Kozlov’s, giving Atlanta’s points leader 301 for his career. … Heatley has a six-game goal streak for the first time in his career. … Belanger, acquired in a Feb. 10 trade with Nashville, has five goals and three assists in eight games with the Thrashers. … Zhitnik, who was sent to Atlanta by Philadelphia last Saturday, was credited with his 21st assist on Dupuis’ goal.