ATLANTA - With five games remaining, Thrashers coach Bob Hartley has Atlanta's season in perspective.
"Right now, I root for any team that plays against Tampa Bay," Hartley said. "I think it is only normal at this point. We need help, and any teams that want to chip in, we really appreciate their help."
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 51st goal to offset Justin Williams' two-goal effort and keep Atlanta's slim playoff hopes alive with a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
The Thrashers have won two of three, but remain six points behind Tampa Bay and Montreal, tied for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Hartley, who coached the Colorado Avalanche to Stanley Cup title in 2001, knows the Atlanta needs other teams to beat Tampa Bay. The Thrashers, who travel to face the Lightning on Tuesday, dropped to 1-5 against Tampa Bay following a shootout loss on Thursday.
"We have to give credit to Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Montreal," Hartley said of the three teams leading Atlanta. "They have put on some great streaks, but by winning our games, we stay in the race and stand a chance to win."
Carolina, which is tied with Ottawa for first in the East, saw its three-game winning streak end. The Hurricanes were coming off a three-game series against Washington.
"We need some time to rest mentally," Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "I don't think I've ever played this many games in this amount of time. Mentally, it gets to be like Groundhog Day. You try to get up and play with all that intensity, but sometimes it's hard to face it, and we just ran out of it tonight."
Kovalchuk scored his NHL-leading 26th power-play goal to make it 3-0 with 1:58 left in the first period.
Williams closed the gap to 3-1 early in the second period when he took Brind'Amour's pass across the bottom of the slot to beat Atlanta goalie Mike Dunham.
Peter Bondra restored the three-goal advantage with his 19th goal 1:05 later. Scott Mellanby added another goal to make it 5-1 early in the third period before Williams ended the scoring with his 30th goal, a snap wrister from the slot, midway through the third.
"It was a fatigue issue tonight," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "There just wasn't a whole lot of energy. I'm not making excuses, because we had a game on the schedule tonight. It's the last game at the end of a long trip, and we're expected to win that game."
Marc Savard opened the scoring with his 28th goal 3:19 into the first period. Serge Aubin extended the lead 11 seconds after Jim Slater missed a penalty shot.
Dunham, who started for the first time in 29 games, had 23 saves. Kari Lehtonen didn't dress after leaving two nights ago with a sprained ankle.
"Obviously, losing Kari is a tough situation for us, but Dunham stepped into a tough situation the other night, and he has played great," said Mellanby, Atlanta's captain. "He is a very capable goalie."
Martin Gerber made 29 saves for the Hurricanes.
Notes: Bondra now has 496 career goals, which ranks ninth among active players.... Mellanby scored his 800th career point.... Eric Staal, Carolina's leading scorer with 44 goals, was frustrated after taking first-period penalties and getting his helmet knocked off with 11 minutes remaining. Atlanta's Andy Sutton was called for hooking on the play, but Staal responded by earning his 52nd assist.... The Thrashers are 18-7-4 over the last 29 home games.... Carolina's all-time record against Atlanta is now 17-8-9.
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