ATLANTA - The depleted Penguins couldn't match the desperate Atlanta Thrashers last night at Philips Arena and fell, 4-1.
Playing with a patchwork lineup because of injuries and illness, the Penguins missed a chance to climb into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Atlanta, trying to keep pace in the tight Southeast Division, broke a five-game losing streak.
Bobby Holik and All-Star Ilya Kovulchuk staked the Thrashers to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Early in the second period, Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu checked Kovalchuk into the boards in front of the Atlanta bench. Kovalchuk limped off the ice favoring his right leg but returned later in the period.
Ruutu was assessed a major kneeing penalty and a game misconduct, leaving him subject to a possible fine by the NHL. He and Thrashers defenseman Steve McCarthy also received fighting penalties and McCarthy an instigating penalty after McCarthy immediately skated over to Ruutu and pounded him several times in the head.
The Penguins looked to halve the Thrashers' lead at 17:50 of the second period, but it was ruled that rookie Nathan Smith directed the puck in with his skate and the goal was waved off.
Atlanta put the game away and chased Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin with two quick goals in the third period, a shorthanded score from Eric Perrin at 1:32 and a goal by Jim Slater at 3:46.
Defenseman Ryan Whitney cut the lead to 4-1 at 8:42 of the third period.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.