San Jose – Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien got the best of a former teammate Saturday.
Ladd’s short-handed goal and Byfuglien’s power-play goal were two of four unanswered goals by the Thrashers in a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over San Jose. The win was the second in two days in which Atlanta overcame a two-goal deficit. The Thrashers beat Anaheim 5-4 in a shootout Friday after falling behind. The Thrashers (3-2) finished a three-game West Coast trip with a 2-1 record.
For Ladd and Byfuglien, their goals came against San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi. The three were teammates last season for Stanley Cup winning Chicago.
After the Thrashers fell behind 2-0 after the first period, Ladd started the comeback with a short-handed goal 1:23 into the period. Alexander Burmistrov was serving an interference penalty – infractions were an issue again for the Thrashers. Bryan Little took the puck on a breakaway and Ladd collected a rebound to beat Niemi for his second goal of the season.
“It’s fun,” Ladd said of scoring against his former teammate. “We had many battles last year in practice. It’s always fun to put one past a guy you used to play with.”
The two had a hand in the game-tying goal. Little took the puck on a backcheck. He sent it to Ladd, who found Anthony Stewart breaking down the right side. A blast beat Niemi for Stewart’s team-leading fourth goal of the season after Friday’s hat trick against Anaheim.
Byfuglien scored the game-winner when he took a cycled puck to the center of the ice and beat Niemi to give the Thrashers a 3-2 lead.
“You can’t ease up,” Byfuglien said. “You just try to pepper as many shots on him as you can. … He’s a pretty quiet guy. He doesn’t say too much. He gave me a little smile out there.”
The Sharks started Niemi in goal even with their other netminder, Antero Niittymaki, owning a 17-0 record against the Thrashers.
Byfuglien’s first goal of the season, with 6:20 remaining, came with San Jose’s Dany Heatley serving an interference penalty.
The Thrashers iced the game when Evander Kane scored his third goal of the season – on a pass from Rich Peverley on a 3-on-1 break – with 4:09 remaining. The goal capped four straight goal run for Atlanta.
Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason stopped 37-of-39 shots in an effort coach Craig Ramsay called “brilliant.”
The Thrashers dug themselves an early 2-0 hole and penalties were the reason. A day after committing eight penalties – six for hooking and tripping – they cost themselves. The math was simple. Three penalties in 1:23 equaled two Sharks goals.
In just over a minute, Freddy Meyer was called for holding, Peverley for tripping and Johnny Oduya for hooking. Heatley scored on the 5-on-3, knocking in a rebound from the crease that beat Mason at the 15:20 mark of the first. Just 21 seconds later Ryan Clowe tipped a Torry Mitchell wrister past Mason on a 4-on-4 situation. San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi was called for diving on Peverley’s tripping penalty negated the advantage.
“This team here is a pretty resilient group,” Mason said. “We are getting there. The thing is, we can get better but you can’t teach that never-quite attitude.”
The Thrashers have shown an ability to come back early in the season. They allowed the first goal to Washington in the season opener and came back to win. The next night they fell behind by four goals to Tampa only to cut the lead to one before losing by two on an empty netter. Following a loss to Los Angeles to start the road trip, the Thrashers have now won twice after falling behind by two goals.
“We are thrilled with the way the team is playing, with the way they’ve responded,” Ramsay said. “There is commitment from the bench. It’s fun to be on that bench. They are excited. You can see it. They are talking. They are starting to pick up on the little details that make for a good hockey team. To come out here, under these conditions, and do as well as we have we are very excited. We would certainly like to actually get a lead, and keep a lead, instead of fighting back all the time. Again, some of those growth things that you go through are showing up where we fall behind but we don’t quit.”
It was the home opener for the Sharks, who celebrated the start of the franchise’s 20th season in front of a sellout crowd of 17,562 at HP Pavilion.