Thrashers back in playoff position with dramatic win

The Thrashers will take it -- in dramatic fashion.

Give much of the credit to Jim Slater and Evander Kane. The duo combined on two very similar goals to lift the Thrashers to 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Philadelphia on Thursday at the Wachovia Center.

Slater scored twice, once in the first period and the game-winner with 6:32 left in the game, on wraparound assists from Kane. Slater’s final goal capped a three-goal third period for the Thrashers.

“Evander Kane took [Flyers All-Star defenseman Chris] Pronger wide both times,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “A young kid, 18 years old, does that, it’s pretty exciting.”

The two did much of the same thing for the team’s first goal.

“When we first got put together [on the same line] we talked about it,” Slater said. “He has good speed. If we can get the guys wide, it gives us a chance to get it on net. ... We are clicking. We want this team to win, and if we can help do that, that’s great for us.”

Johan Hedberg stopped 34 of 37 shots, including a sliding effort well out of his net late in the game, for his second consecutive win.

The Thrashers (24-21-8, 56 points) jumped to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with the win, their first back-to-backs in more than a month. The team had last won two in a row on Dec. 12 and 14 -- a span of 22 games.

More important, the win rockets the Thrashers up the conference standings. The Thrashers are alone in sixth, after entering the game in a four-way tie for 10th. They now stand one point in front of the Flyers, Panthers, Rangers and Canadiens.

“It’s a great comeback win and a great character win for us,” Hedberg said.

The dramatics were set up by Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley, who tied the game at 3-3 with goals early in the third period. Kovalchuk scored his 31st goal of the season just 29 seconds into the third period.

“It got everybody on their toes and gave us momentum,” Hedberg said.

Peverley scored his 17th goal of the season on a breakaway, beating Flyers goaltender Ray Emery after taking a long pass from Pavel Kubina up the center of the ice with 15:34 remaining.

“We talked about it before the game,” Anderson said. “This was the third game where we had a chance to move ahead of a team we were playing that night. I’m just glad we rose to the occasion because we got beat twice before and not feeling too good about ourselves. It helps our team confidence immensely.”

The Flyers took a 3-1 lead into the final period on the strength of three second-period goals. Philadelphia scored on three breakaways six minutes and 25 seconds apart in the middle period.

With the Thrashers leading 1-0 on Slater’s first goal, the Flyers’ Claude Giroux evened the score at the 6:52 mark. Giroux took the puck at the blue line and skated in on Hedberg. He faked a shot and then continued wide of the net, pulling Hedberg out too far with a deke. Giroux pulled the puck back in after going around Hedberg and deposited it in the net unassisted for his 11th goal of the season.

Giroux set up the go-ahead goal on another breakaway. Skating in on net, he slid a cross-ice pass to Arron Asham, who beat Hedberg.

Just over three minutes later, on yet another breakaway, Ian Laperriere found a streaking Dan Carcillo, who poked the puck into the back of the net at the 13:17 mark.

Slater opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period for the Thrashers. Kane took control of a loose puck and wrapped around behind the goal. He slid a pass in front of the net that Slater banged in with 48.5 seconds left. Slater now has seven goals on the season and nine points (six goals, three assists) in the past 12 games.

In the past five games, the line of Kane, Slater and Colby Armstrong has combined for 11 points (six goals, five assists).

The loss was the first in regulation in 22 games for the Flyers (26-23-3, 55 points) when they led after two periods. They entered the game with a 22-0-2 mark in that situation.

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