Toronto Maple leafs goalie Vesa Toskala, of Finland, stops a shot in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Atlanta Thrashers, Friday, Jan 16, 2009, in Atlanta. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/John Bazemore
ATLANTA - Newcomer Rich Peverley scored the winning goal for the Atlanta Thrashers, then credited Ilya Kovalchuk with the victory.
Peverley scored by knocking in a rebound of Kovalchuk's shot with 1:09 left in overtime to give the Thrashers a 4-3 comeback victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
"It's tremendous to be able to contribute," said Peverley, playing his second game with the Thrashers after being obtained on waivers from Nashville on Jan. 10. "To get an overtime winner was great but it was also a great play by Kovalchuk."
The Thrashers ended a two-game losing streak and won for only the third time in 11 games. Atlanta also won for only the third time in its last 15 games at home (3-10-2). Toronto, which blew a 3-0 first-period lead, lost for the fifth time in six games.
"The rebound kicked out and he (Peverley) shot it," Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala said. "When you have a three-goal lead, you have to find a way to play the whole game."
Toronto was outshot 38-17. The Leafs had eight shots in the opening period and only nine the rest of the night.
"It wasn't the start we wanted, but after the first period we woke up and I think we played our best two periods," Kovalchuk said.
Atlanta tied it at three with 4:53 left in regulation on Kovalchuk's second goal of the game and 18th of the season. He scored off a perfect pass from Peverley.
"The second period they took it to us," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "The third we were fine but a couple of missed assignments and the puck is in the net. What are you going to do?"
Kovalchuk assisted on the winning goal, his shot caroming off Toskala to Peverley at the edge of the net. Peverley skated on a line with Kovalchuk and assisted on both of his goals.
"We let the lead slip away. We kind of sat back a little too much and let them come at us instead of sticking with our game plan," Toronto's Dominic Moore said.
Toronto took a 3-0 lead after the first period, scoring twice in a 56-second span late in the period.
Lee Stempniak opened the scoring, beating Johan Hedberg on a power play off a rebound of Tomas Kaberle's shot. Then Moore scored his ninth, deflecting a shot by Luke Schenn past Hedberg at the 18:44 mark. Niklas Hagman followed with his 13th with a 10-foot wrist shot at 19:40 to a chorus of boos from the Atlanta crowd. When the period ended, the boos were even louder.
Hedberg was replaced by Kari Lehtonen at the start of the second period.
The boos quickly turned to cheers when Kovalchuk, Atlanta's only all-star this season, scored his 17th goal only 1:10 into the second period, beating Vesa Toskala on a shot from the right circle.
The Thrashers cut it to 3-2 on Bryan Little's goal - his 20th - at 15:38. Atlanta outshot Toronto 17-3 in the middle period.
Notes: The Maple Leafs are 1-5 in the second half of games on back-to-back nights this season. The Leafs beat Carolina 6-4 Thursday night. ... Peverley drew an assist on Kovalchuk's first goal, his first point as a Thrasher. He had two goals and seven assists for Nashville in 28 games. ... Toskala was 5-0-1 with a 1.81 GAA against the Thrashers prior to Friday night.