Now this is a win streak.
The Thrashers won their third consecutive game with an impressive 5-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night at Philips Arena. They had won two in a row once before this current run.
The Thrashers (10-9-3, 23 points) outplayed the Red Wings, scoring twice in the first and second periods to build a comfortable lead against the NHL’s top scoring team. The Red Wings entered the game with a 3.67 goals-per-game average and were limited to a lone power-play goal. The Thrashers are now 3-1 after the fourth of their six-game homestand.
“I’m enjoying the heck out of this particular moment and so are our players,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “You want to do that. This game is supposed to be fun. We talked about not being afraid of this team, of not being afraid of winning. Now, we can enjoy the win. In this business it’s so difficult because you must understand how you won and carry it forward to the next contest.”
The Thrashers handed Detroit (13-4-2, 28 points) its first regulation loss in the past seven games. It was only the second regulation loss for Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard in the past 30 regular-season games (24-2-4), dating to last season. The Thrashers held the Red Wing’s Pavel Datsyuk without a point for only the fourth time this season.
Ondrej Pavelec has won three consecutive games in goal for the Thrashers. Over his past four games, Pavelec has stopped 121 of 125 shots (.968 save percentage), including 32 Wednesday and allowed only four goals. He is third in the NHL in both save percentage (.942) and goals-against average (1.84).
“We know we can beat those guys,” Pavelec said. “We played the last couple games against good teams like Washington and Detroit and we showed a lot of character. If we play our style, we can beat those guys.
“I just tried to see the puck well and get the first shots. Sometimes I had no idea how I stopped it. The puck just hit me. The guys in front of me, our defense, did a great job of getting the rebounds and clearing the crease.”
The Thrashers have outscored the opposition 12-2 during the three-game streak, including wins over Washington (5-0) and the New York Islanders (2-1). The Thrashers have outscored powerhouses Washington and Detroit 10-1.
The origin of the win streak may have come in the second period of last week’s game against Florida. Ramsay said he thought his team “quit” during the second period of the 2-1 loss. The Thrashers outshot the Panthers 18-3 in the final period but could not score. They carried that period into the current win streak.
“Part of that comment was for them to take charge,” Ramsay said. “They have. They did it then. It showed in the third period and since then they’ve continued to do it. When we’ve had our sags, we’ve fought. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We fought back.”
The Thrashers took a 2-1 lead after the first period. Chris Thorburn started the scoring with his fourth goal of the season 2:39 into the game. Thorburn was on the receiving end of an Eric Boulton pass from behind the net and beat Howard. It was Thorburn’s first goal in 18 games and marked the seventh time in the past nine games that the Thrashers have scored first.
“It’s been a while,” Thorburn said between periods. “I forgot what the feeling was like.”
Earlier in the day, Ramsay praised the line of Boulton, Thorburn and Jim Slater. He did so again following the game.
“We are getting a lot of ice time,” Boulton said. “He’s putting us out in good situations. We are definitely getting a lot of chances. Over the years we’ve had our fair share of chances and we’ve put a couple in, but we should have a lot more. We got it done tonight.”
The Thrashers went up by two goals when Andrew Ladd scored his second short-handed goal of the season. Rich Peverley robbed Datsyuk in the neutral zone. Peverley hit a streaking Ladd with a perfect pass, and Ladd buried the puck in the back of the net at the 11:59 mark. It was Ladd’s eighth goal, tying him with Evander Kane for the team lead.
The Red Wings cashed in on their man-advantage 19 seconds later when Todd Bertuzzi scored to make it a one-goal game.
“They like to drop pass on the power play and I kind of read it a little bit,” Peverley said. “I was lucky to get a piece of it. He is such a dangerous player that you want the puck away from him.”
It didn’t take long for the Thrashers to get back the two-goal lead. The Thrashers started the second period with 1:53 of power-play time. With three seconds left, Bryan Little threaded a pass through the crease that Anthony Stewart easily knocked in for a 3-1 lead. It was Stewart’s sixth goal of the season. The assist was the 109th point of Little’s career, tying him for with Andrew Brunette for 10th on the all-time franchise list. He would own the position later in the period when he scored his fourth goal of the season. Little raced into the offensive zone and wristed a shot past Howard high to the glove side for a 4-1 lead. It was Little’s fourth goal of the season.
“I didn’t even look at the net,” Little said. “I just shot it as hard as I could.”
The Red Wings replaced Howard with Joey MacDonald to start the final period. The Thrashers got one past him as Dustin Byfuglien blasted a shot from the point on a 4-on-3 power-play at the 14:19 mark. It was Byfuglien’s third consecutive game with a goal and his eighth of the season, tying Ladd and Kane.
“We are not worried about our offense,” Ladd said. “We’ve proven this year we can score. Our focus is being sound defensively. It’s the little details on the defensive side that lead to turnovers and offensive play and we were able to capitalize on them.”
The Thrashers continue their homestand against Montreal on Friday and end it with Boston on Sunday. They then leave of a six-day, three-game road trip to Colorado, Pittsburgh and Washington – three more top teams.