ATLANTA – It’s still far too early for Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg to temper his team’s expectations.
The Senators’ first two-game winning streak in over a month is no reason to celebrate. “The spirits are good,” Hartsburg said. “The guys are battling. Our guys showed a lot of character.”
Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson each had a goal and an assist, helping Ottawa beat the Thrashers 3-2 to keep Atlanta reeling at home on Wednesday night.
In their past 14 games at Philips Arena, the Thrashers have 12 losses. Overall, Atlanta has dropped two straight and five of six.
Five penalties in the first period wrecked any potential momentum for the Thrashers, who wasted two leads in Ilya Kovalchuk’s first game as team captain.
“It’s definitely a special night in my career, but I wanted to win the game,” Kovalchuk said. “The penalties are killing us.”
Dean McAmmond broke a 2-2 tie for the winning goal 14:23 into the second period. Jarkko Ruutu floated a pass up the ice for McAmmond, who scored on a breakaway ahead of trailing defenceman Ron Hainsey.
Ottawa, which snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory Tuesday against Carolina, won its second straight for the first time since Dec. 6. Improving to 5-14-3 on the road, the Senators began the night with 11 points, second-fewest in the NHL, away from Scotiabank Place.
Rookie goaltender Brian Elliott improved to 2-1-0 after stopping 29 of 31 shots to win his second straight start.
“I felt a little shaky in the first period,” Elliott said. “I came back pretty strong in the second and third periods. I think the guys saw that and grew confidence in me.”
In just his third game since the Senators recalled him from AHL Binghamton, Elliott knows he needs to make a good impression while the job is apparently his. Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray has indicated that he will send Martin Gerber, who’s 4-9-1, to the minors for two weeks of conditioning.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Elliott, a ninth-round draft pick from 2002. “This is my goal and dream, to play at this level. When you get a shot like this, it doesn’t happen this often. You have to make the most of it.”
Spezza scored his 18th goal on the power play, making it 2-2 at the 18:09 mark of the first. In his past 12 games, Spezza has 14 points, including six goals.
Alfredsson, who assisted on Spezza’s goal, made it 1-1 on the power play with his 12th goal to beat Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen from the left circle.
Todd White, scoring a goal for the second straight game, gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead 5:37 into the first with his 14th, which came from the slot on the power play.
Chris Thorburn tipped in his fourth goal nearly 10 minutes after White to make it 2-1.
Lehtonen, who gave up seven goals in Atlanta’s 8-4 loss Saturday at Florida, dropped to 5-12-2 after making 27 saves.
Ottawa hopes to avoid that kind of slump with Elliott.
“He made some huge saves for us late in the game,” Hartsburg said. “I thought he looked a little nervous in the beginning, but he got bigger and bigger in the net as the game went on.”
Notes: Taking three shots in 18 shifts, Kovalchuk was paired on the second line with centre Rich Peverley, who was claimed off waivers from Nashville on Saturday. … McAmmond’s goal, his third this season, gave him two in two games. … Thrashers rookie D Zach Bogosian, the NHL’s No. 3 overall draft pick, played at home for the first time since breaking his leg Oct. 28.