Kozlov scored the decisive goal in the third period to beat Pittsburgh for the second time in a week, and the Thrashers ran their winning streak and the Penguins’ losing streak to five games with a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.
Kozlov got the winning goal, his 15th of the season, about seven minutes into the third period on a wrist shot from along the goal-line that got past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury inside the near post. Kozlov, set up on the go-ahead goal by Jon Sim, has two goals and four assists in three games against Pittsburgh this season.
“That was a great pass through two sticks,” Kozlov said. “I was heading behind the goal-line so I had to shoot it but it was a great pass. That was a big goal for us.”
Kozlov also scored during a shootout – and Hossa did so immediately after him – in the Thrashers’ 4-3 victory Thursday in Atlanta. Kozlov has 15 goals and 17 assists in 29 career games against the Penguins, while Hossa has three goals and 15 assists in his last nine games against them.
“We’re feeling really good right now – all three phases, the forwards, defencemen and goalies are playing well,” Kozlov said. “We’re not making mistakes, and that’s the thing we need with guys like Hossa and Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk), you know we’re going to score goals.
“The difference is we’re not making mistakes.”
The Thrashers have had two five-game win streaks this month, matching the longest in the franchise’s short history. Pittsburgh also has been streaking for weeks, losing four, winning four and now losing five.
“We’re right back where we started a week ago,” Penguins forward Ryan Malone said. “We’ve got to dig ourselves back up to where we were and improve.
“You obviously don’t want to go on a skid like this but it happens. We have to bounce back and take care of business.”
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Erik Christensen’s sixth goal as he took a rebound off the post and shoved it toward the net, where it deflected off both of goalie Kari Lehtonen’s skates and his outstretched stick before sliding in.
“You score that first one, you want to keep going,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said. “You’ve got to get a lead and maintain it.”
Lehtonen made certain that didn’t happen, stopping 35 shots. He has turned away 162 of 173 shots during the current winning streak.
“The way our goalie’s playing right now, that’s the main thing,” Kozlov said. “He’s giving us a chance to win in every game.”
Lehtonen won despite giving up Ryan Whitney’s tying goal, his fifth, in the first minute of the third period. The goalie got a break during a sequence shortly after that when, with an opening at the side of the net, Evgeni Malkin and Crosby both missed good shots on the same shift.
“That’s when you like being a goalie in the third period and the other team is behind and putting all that pressure on,” Lehtonen said. “That’s when it’s the most fun – if you can withstand that momentum.”
Atlanta, coming off a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday on Jim Slater’s goal with 8.1 seconds remaining, came back in the second period as Hossa set up goals about eight minutes apart by Vitaly Vishnevski, his third, and Niclas Havelid, his first since March 1. Hossa assisted on three of Atlanta’s four goals.
“Everyone’s chipping in – we had goals from guys who don’t score very often,” Lehtonen said.
Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer, went scoreless for the second night in a row after scoring in his previous 10 games. Crosby also didn’t score in a 3-0 loss at New Jersey on Tuesday. The Penguins are 0-28-1 the last two seasons when Crosby doesn’t score.
The Penguins were 2-of-6 on the power play after being 2-of-25 in their previous five games. Coach Michel Therrien tinkered with his units, playing Malkin on the point rather than down low.
Notes: Bobby Holik added an empty-net goal off Hossa’s pass with 19 seconds remaining . . . Atlanta is 5-0-1 in its last six against Pittsburgh, which won 19 of the first 21 games between the teams . . . The Penguins have lost four of their last six at home . . . Atlanta is 15-0-2 when leading after two periods.