The Atlanta Thrashers always used to have trouble beating the New Jersey Devils. That was before Marian Hossa joined the team.
Hossa looks to lead the Thrashers to their third straight win overall and sixth in a row over the Devils at Philips Arena on Saturday.
After joining the NHL as an expansion team in 1999-2000, Atlanta (20-10-6) won only four of 20 meetings with New Jersey through the 2003-04 season. Since the lockout ended, the Thrashers have taken all five matchups between the clubs.
Hossa has been a big reason why. The right wing, who spent his first seven seasons with Ottawa before being traded to the Thrashers along with Greg de Vries for Dany Heatley in August 2005, has recorded at least one point in all five games against the Devils since the lockout.
He has five goals and three assists in those meetings.
On Tuesday at New Jersey, Hossa scored two short-handed goals in regulation, then beat Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in a shootout during Atlanta's 4-3 victory.
"They are momentum breakers," Brodeur said of the short-handed goals. "When you play four forwards and a defenseman, it's going to happen. Teams notice and will take chances, especially with an explosive player like Hossa. He's so big, so fast, so skilled. He's tough to contain."
The victory snapped a season-high five-game skid for the Thrashers, who returned home Thursday and won another game in a shootout, 4-3 over Pittsburgh.
Hossa assisted on two goals in the second period, before he and Slava Kozlov both scored in the shootout for the second straight game.
Kozlov beat Penguins goalie Jocelyn Thibault over the left shoulder. The 15-year veteran improved to 5-for-6 in shootout attempts this season and 10-for-13 lifetime.
"I try to do something different every time," Kozlov said. "So far, it has worked."
Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves - 19 in the third period - and stopped both shots he faced in the shootout for the second game in a row. Lehtonen, who stopped 31 shots in regulation and overtime Tuesday at New Jersey, is 2-0-0 in his career versus the Devils (19-12-3) despite allowing eight total goals in those games.
New Jersey bounced back from Tuesday's defeat with a 4-1 win at Washington on Friday. Travis Zajac and Zach Parise scored power-play goals for the Devils, who have man-advantage goals in a season-high five straight games. They are 9-for-25 (36.0 percent) on the power play over that span.
"When we struggle with our special teams, we struggle badly," said New Jersey coach Claude Julien, whose team had lost four of five games overall. "Special teams have come around, the power play's been a lot better and the penalty kill has been very good. Especially on the road, those things have a tendency to make a difference."
Patrik Elias added a goal and an assist and Brian Gionta also scored for New Jersey, which has won four of its last five away from home.
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