Here is my game story from the Thrashers 3-2 overtime win over the Maple Leafs Sunday for those who would like to comment.
Ron Hainsey set off one wild celebration.
This one had it all – joy of a dramatic victory, enthusiasm of a playoff race re-entered and a collective sigh of relief from a team desperate to taste victory again.
Hainsey scored 2:31 into overtime to give the Thrashers a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Toronto Sunday at Philips Arena. The defenseman was mobbed by teammates for delivering the team’s second win of the month.
“I know I got one in the American League but that was awhile ago,” Hainsey said of scoring a game-winning goal. “It wasn’t in overtime. That’s the first overtime one since I was like 10 [years old].
The Thrashers (26-26-11, 63 points) broke a five-game losing streak and won for the second time since returning from the all-star break. They had just six wins in their previous 27 games and had fallen out of playoff position.
That’s one big sigh of relief.
With the win, the Thrashers moved into a tie with Toronto (27-27-9, 63 points) for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference. They are two points behind Buffalo for ninth and four points behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“We had to win,” said Hainsey, who scored his second goal of the season. “We’ve been losing game against teams we are racing with – Carolina, Buffalo, Toronto. [Toronto] still got one [point, but we picked up two points on the teams ahead of us. That’s what’s important. That puts us four [points] away and, hey, we are in business here. If we are getting any further away than that we are going to have problems. We are back in it.”
The Thrashers are back in the playoff race and it took two third-period goals to do so.
Down 2-0 entering the final period, the Thrashers made it a game with Andrew Ladd’s power-play goal 23 seconds into the third. With Keith Aulie serving a high-sticking penalty, drawn by Eric Boulton at the end of the second period, Ladd scored on a rebound to give the Thrashers life. Blake Wheeler took a swipe at a loose puck in front of Maple Leafs goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who came in for an injured James Reimer. Ladd knocked home the rebound for his 23rd goal. He now has six goals in the past six games. At that point he had scored six of the Thrashers past 11 goals.
Tim Stapleton tied the game with his first goal of the season, and fourth of his NHL career, with 4:36 remaining. After he won a faceoff, Evander Kane raced down the left side with the puck, beating his defender. He slid the puck in front to Zach Bogosian and after the defenseman and Anthony Stewart took stabs at it, Stapleton arrived to bury the game-tying goal.
It was a big goal for Stapleton, who was placed on waivers Saturday.
“It’s a business thing,” the forward said. “At first I was a little disappointed. I don’t really blame them. I played 25 games and I had one assist. Hopefully I can keep going. We’ll see what happens Monday. If I still here I going to keep playing to stay.”
Chris Mason stopped 22-of-24 shots for his first win since Dec. 11. He blanked the Maple Leafs after allowing two first-period goals. Mason got the start with Ondrej Pavelec out with a right wrist injury. Pavelec, wearing a brace on his wrist, did not dress.
As steady as Mason played, he was in jeopardy of losing for the second straight game after relieving Pavelec in Friday’s shootout loss to Florida.
“Keep playing,” Mason said of coach Craig Ramsay’s locker room speech before the final period. “We had to get [the puck] in behind their defensemen. It makes it tougher for teams when you get it behind. It doesn’t matter how good they guys are, if you keep making them go back and chase it, it tires them out. We put a lot of pressure on them in the third period.”
Ramsay gave no speech following the game.
“I just feel in my [office] chair,” Ramsay said. “I let [assistant coach] Mike Stothers go talk to them. I was tired.”