DENVER – Anthony Stewart’s bad pass was a game-winning goal.
Stewart scored 1:49 into overtime to give the Thrashers a 3-2 victory over Colorado Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center. It was a franchise-record tying sixth straight win for the red-hot Thrashers.
Stewart admitted afterward that he was trying to pass the puck to Dustin Byfuglien.
“To be honest, I just tried to put it on his stick but I guess I got too much toe of my stick, it went on net and went in,” Stewart said. “I heard the crowd go ‘Awww.’ I thought I must have hit someone in the face. I saw the guys put their arms up so then I figured it must have went in.”
The Thrashers (13-9-3, 29 points) are now sixth in the Eastern Conference and one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Only Pittsburgh, Thursday’s opponent, has a longer current winning streak at seven straight.
It was a come-from-behind victory for the Thrashers after they surrendered two third-period goals. However, Byfuglien tied the game at 2-2 with his 10th goal of the season with 6:12 remaining in regulation. More impressive, was that the Thrashers killed off a tripping penalty to Nik Antropov with 1:01 remaining. After killing the 5-on-4 portion at the end of regulation, the Thrashers blanked the Avs for 59 seconds of the 4-on-3 in overtime.
“The whole penalty was about you have to suck it up now, you have to play through,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “In the overtime it was about attacking the entry. In a 4-on-3 or 5-on-3 your best chance is to attack the entry and we did it. We jumped the entry, got in a battle, we got the puck and eventually got it down there. They ended up with one set up that we blocked. I wanted them to really go for it.”
The Thrashers matched the franchise record for consecutive wins set March 6-16, 2009. During the current win streak, the Thrashers have outscored the competition 22-5.
Stewart’s goal, his seventh of the season, was a classic example of Ramsay’s mantra: Put the puck on the net and good things happen. Stewart’s pass/shot from wide of the goal trickled under Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj’s pads.
“It was a great play to take the puck to the net, put the puck on net and who knows what will happen,” Ramsay said of the game-winner. “Buff was strong on the puck, got us a chance to regroup after the penalty kill, which was absolutely tremendous. I can’t say enough about our defensemen and about Brent Sopel on the last penalty kill. He was just brilliant. He gave us a chance.”
Ondrej Pavelec turned in another strong performance in goal. Making his seventh straight start and 13th consecutive appearance, Pavelec stopped 29-of-31 shots. Over the team’s six-game win streak, Pavelec has stopped 183-of-188 shots.
“Big win,” Pavelec said. “They scored two goals in the third period but we didn’t quit. It was huge that we killed that penalty and then scored right away.”
Rich Peverley opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the season at the 10:41 mark of the first period. Peverley threw a wide-angled shot that beat Budaj.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Peverley said. “I just lost [the puck], but it came back to me and I shot it and thought maybe I would catch him off guard. I didn’t even see the net, I just shot it.”
The goal marked the 10th time in the past 12 games that the Thrashers have scored first goal – all coming in the first period.
Colorado forced the action in the second period and finally cashed in during the third period. Matt Duchene took a neutral zone turnover and beat Pavelec on a rush 1:43 into the final stanza for his seventh goal of the season and fourth in four games. David Jones tipped a point shot past Pavelec on a power play at the 10:10 mark to give the Avalanche the lead. Evander Kane, who was called for interference to set up the power play, was hit in the left knee by a shot from Tobias Enstrom during the delayed call. Kane left the ice in considerable pain and did not return. Ramsay said Kane would be evaluated Wednesday.
With the Thrashers trailing, Byfuglien rescued the Thrashers again. He brought the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot that was blocked. He regained control and set another laser on net that beat Budaj.
“Kid came down and block my shot and everyone just kind of backed up and gave me time to load up and pick my spot,” Byfuglien said. “Nailed it on the spot.”
Byfuglien extended his point streak to six games, with five goals and six assists.
“Winning is good,” Ramsay said. “It is nice and it’s a confidence builder as we continue to do this thing. As great as this is, and it’s really fun, we have to understand how we did it and stay away from those lulls.”