ATLANTA – The fewer players the Atlanta Thrashers had on the ice, the better they played.
The Thrashers took a lead with two short-handed goals in the second period and beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday night, handing New York its fourth straight loss.
“It seemed like four guys work better than five on four,” said Atlanta’s Marian Hossa, who scored the first short-handed goal. “It was good. The penalty kill stepped up.”
The Thrashers won despite an 0-for-9 performance on the power play.
The Islanders outshot the Thrashers 33-24, but were held to no more than three goals for the 16th straight game.
“If we hadn’t given up those two short-handed goals, you never know the result,” New York coach Ted Nolan said. “Our power play wasn’t very good. We have to get some confidence on the power play.”
The Thrashers (13-13-0) have recovered from an 0-6 start to reach .500, though they still have more wins on the road.
Wednesday night’s game was the start of a stretch in which Atlanta plays seven of nine at home.
“Right now our record is better on the road than at home,” said Hossa, who also had an assist. “With so many games at home, it’s very important to win these games. Tonight we found a way to win.”
Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the shootout for Atlanta.
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro complained about Kozlov’s hesitation move before shooting late for his goal. DiPietro lunged forward for the stop and Kozlov lofted the puck over the goalie.
“I thought he skated backward with the puck,” DiPietro said. “He took a step backward. … (The officials) weren’t interested in talking with me. They made the call, the goal stood and we have to move on.”
Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped Bill Guerin and Miroslav Satan in the shootout. Lehtonen said he conferred with veteran goalie Johan Hedberg before the shootout.
“Hedberg helped me out,” Lehtonen said. “He told me where the guys might shoot and that helped a lot. He knows a lot on the shooters.”
Lehtonen made 30 stops in only his second start – both wins against the Islanders – since missing 16 games because of a groin injury.
Atlanta was stopped on four power-play chances in the first period before scoring three goals in the second, including two short-handed goals.
Atlanta’s Eric Perrin already led the NHL with three short-handed assists before adding two in the second period.
“We have great goal-scorers,” Perrin said. “It’s nice to make a pass, but they have to put it in the net. I try to find a way to get them the puck.”
The Thrashers led 3-1 before the Islanders rallied with a goal late in the second period by Mike Sillinger and a game-tying shot by Trent Hunter 7:32 into the third period.
Lehtonen inadvertently helped set up New York’s first goal, deflecting a shot by Chris Simon back to the Islanders’ Mike Comrie, who fired the puck back past the goalie for a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period.
The Thrashers tied it at 7:06 of the second period when Hossa skated past New York’s Chris Campoli and scored the short-handed goal from the left circle. Hossa’s shot bounced off goalie Rick DiPietro into the net.
Kovalchuk scored on a pass from Hossa to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead midway through the period before the Thrashers added a second short-handed goal. Pascal Dupuis took a pass from Perrin between the circles and scored with less than 5 minutes left in the period for a 3-1 lead.
With only 18.9 seconds left in the second period, former Thrashers defenceman Andy Sutton had an assist on Sillinger’s goal that cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2.
Ken Klee’s second penalty of the game, this one for tripping, set up a New York power play. Hunter’s shot from beyond the left circle tied it at 3.
Notes: Kovalchuk scored his NHL-leading 23rd goal. He has seven goals in his last 10 games against the Islanders. … The Islanders outshot the Thrashers 9-6 in the first period despite Atlanta have a 4-1 advantage in power plays. … New York held the Thrashers to three shots on goal in the third period. … The teams played for the second time in five days, following Atlanta’s 4-0 win on Long Island on Saturday.