Kovalchuk scores twice in 2-0 victory

TAMPA, Fla. - Ilya Kovalchuk scored two third-period goals, Kari Lehtonen stopped 36 shots and the Atlanta Thrashers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 on Monday night.

Kovalchuk tied his career-high in goals with 52, matching his total for the 2005-06 season.

He has 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 15 games during March, and has eight goals in the past seven games against Tampa Bay.

Kovalchuk scored with 5:06 left in the game. Bobby Holik sent a cross-ice pass to a charging Kovalchuk, who put it past out of position goalie Mike Smith.

Kovalchuk scored into an empty net with 58 seconds remaining and Lehtonen picked up his fourth shutout of the season.

Smith, who made his first start in three games due to a sprained left knee, had 23 saves on 24 shots.

The Thrashers, who are 14th place in the Eastern Conference, stayed out of last place, which is held by the Lightning with 71 points.

Notes: LW Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman made his NHL-debut Monday, after being recalled from AHL Chicago Wolves on Sunday. ... Defenseman Ken Klee missed his sixth game with a groin injury.