No praise for Kovalchuk

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Ed Belfour appeared to have no chance at stopping Ilya Kovalchuk's slapshot Saturday night but the Maple Leafs goalie told a different story afterward.

Kovalchuk scored on what is becoming one of his trademark plays -- a power-play goal on a one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle to the goalie's right.

"He gets it off quick, but I was there (in position to make the save)," Belfour said. "It took a little bit of a dip and I missed it with the blocker. It hit the inside of my stick and went up through my armpit."

The goal was on Atlanta's second shot of the game, though it came at the 17:23 of the first period.

Near the end of the game, Belfour was caught wandering and was run over by the Thrashers' Marian Hossa.

"You would rather not have him sacrifice his body that way, and I think he would say he would rather have made an alternative decision," coach Pat Quinn said. "But in a split moment, you don't have time to think it through, just react."

YOU'RE IN

Wade Belak had been a healthy scratch for six consecutive games before suiting up on Saturday night, but had been in the habit of taking part in the pre-game warmup.

On Saturday night, he was told by the coaching staff after the warmup he would be playing. Chad Kilger was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

"It was a big surprise but it was a good one," Belak said. "It was nice to get back in there, and nice to play with some good linemates in (Matt) Stajan and (Kyle) Wellwood."

Belak, who had not played since Nov. 5 against Tampa Bay, had nine shifts and six minutes, 30 seconds of ice time, during which he fought Eric Boulton.

EFFECTIVE TRIO

Quinn was happy with the play of the line of Jason Allison between Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky against Atlanta. Led by Ponikarovsky's two goals, the three combined for seven points.

In this day and age, there's no way the line should not be effective. Antropov is 6-foot-6, 230 pounds; Ponikarovsky is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds; and Allison is the small fry of the troika at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.

"They hold the puck well and it has the potential to be a strong unit for us," Quinn said.


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