Ottawa Senators left wing Chris Kelly (22) checks Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Anssi Salmela (25) into the boards during the first period of an NHL hockey game at Philips Arena, Saturday, March 28, 2009, in Atlanta. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gregory Smith
ATLANTA - Ilya Kovalchuk would give up all his goals for a shot at the playoffs.
That won't happen this season, but Kovalchuk netted his 40th goal and the Atlanta Thrashers scored three times in less than three minutes of the second period to beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Saturday night.
"I'd trade all my goals for a playoff spot," said Kovalchuk, who has at least 40 goals in five consecutive seasons.
The Thrashers, who have won two straight and eight of 11, broke open a 2-2 game on goals by Tobias Enstrom, Marty Reasoner and Colby Armstrong in a span of 2:58.
Enstrom, who had two assists, scored his fifth goal on a power play at 13:12, giving Atlanta a 3-2 edge. Reasoner added his 13th goal 1:12 later before Armstrong notched his 19th goal 54 seconds later for a 5-2 lead.
Jason Spezza had two of Ottawa's goals, giving him 29 this season, in the first period.
Kovalchuk, who also had an assist on Enstrom's goal, scored his milestone goal with 10 seconds left in the opening period.
The seven-year veteran, who has 294 career goals, has registered four goals and five assists in his last four games. Nathan Oystrick scored earlier in the period for Atlanta.
"It's easy to score when everybody plays well. We're building some momentum for next year," Kovalchuk said of the Thrashers (32-38-6). "I'll try for (300 goals). A couple of hat tricks and you're there."
Spezza assisted on Ryan Shannon's power-play goal at 1:50 of the third period. It was Shannon's seventh of the season and third in three games for the Senators, who lost their second straight after winning five in a row.
"We played a decent first period, made good goals," Spezza said. "Had a horrible second period, and they just outplayed us after that."
Atlanta's Slava Kozlov, who had two assists, scored his 24th goal on a power play at 9:23 of the third period.
Todd White and Eric Perrin each had a pair of assists, and Armstrong added an assist for the Thrashers. Johan Hedberg recorded his 100th career victory by making 18 saves.
"It only took almost 10 years, but it was nice to have it," said the 35-year-old Hedberg, who has played for Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Dallas and Atlanta. "I noticed a week ago that I was closing in on it."
The backup to Kari Lehtonen is 11-10-3 this season.
Ottawa rookie goalie Brian Elliott was removed after Reasoner's goal. He gave up four goals on 21 shots. His replacement, Alex Auld, allowed Armstrong's goal on the first shot he faced.
"By no means was it his fault," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said of Elliott. "They wanted it more than we did. It's hard to explain that. The effort just wasn't consistent enough at times."
Ottawa's Nick Foligno had an assist, giving him two goals and four assists in five games.
Notes: Lehtonen didn't play after injuring his upper body and leaving following the first period of Thursday night's 5-4 shootout win over the New York Rangers. ... Kovalchuk, who has 294 career goals, has 10 goals and 15 assists in his last 13 games. ... Elliott was 11-1-2 in his previous 17 games.