There are not too many times this season that the Thrashers have scored a goal in the first period then made that one goal hold up. Heck, for that matter…there haven’t been that many times in their history that they’ve done something like that. But Friday night that is exactly how they disposed of a Montreal Canadiens that is battling for every point they can as they jostle for playoff positioning.
Yes…points are precious to a team like Montreal right now. But on this night the Thrashers told them, “You will get nothing, Habs…and LIKE IT“! No points…no goals…no pity…no cookies…no NOTHING!
Methinks the Thrashers are really taking a liking to this spoiler role right now.
Bryan Little gave Atlanta all the scoring that they would need at the 17:28 mark of the opening period. The Thrashers defense and Kari took it from there. They held Montreal to just 17 shots on goal in the final 42 minutes and 32 seconds after Little’s goal and Rich Peverely’s empty netter nailed the coffin shut on the Habs. Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on both goals while Todd White and Ron Hainsey contributed with secondary assists.
Kari Lehtonen turned away all 25 shots he faced and was rewarded with his second shutout win of the season. Yup…you saw that correctly… the Thrashers held the opposition to only 25 SOG…13 in the first 40 minutes of play. Montreal came into this game averaging 30.4 SG/G and the Thrashers entered with a SA/G average of 33.0.
Among the biggest set of saves came with about two and a half minutes remaining in the game and the score still only 1-0 when Kari stonewalled Tomas Plekanic twice at point blank range. After stopping the initail shot close in, Lehtonen once again denied Czech on the rebound attempt from his keester.
While the shutout will show up in Kari’s stats…this was genuinly a team effort. Atlanta’s defense played very solid…especially so young Zach Bogosian…and the O-fense generated quite a few scoring chances. If not for fine work by Montreal’s goalie Carey Price, the Thrashers would have netted more.
While we have discussed Atlanta’s woeful home record this year, they have now won three of the last four games played in the comfy confines of Philips Arena. They only have 12 home wins all season… so 25% of them have come in the past week and a half.
As for Montreal…in their past 14 games on the road, they are just 2-11-1.
Since the biggining of the west coast swing last month, the Thrashers have scored 35 goals in their past nine games. 36 if you count the gimmick point that came with the shootout win in L.A. Regardless, that’s scoring goals at a 4 per game clip. I’ll take that anytime.
Atlanta’s Baby Blueline
This Thrashers’ defensive corps has gotten very young with the departure of Mathieu Schneider and Nic Havelid. The senior member of the blueline is now Ron Hainsey who will become 28 years old on the 24th of this month. He’s following in age by Garnet Exelby, 27…then Nathan Oystrick, 26…Tobias Enstrom is 24…Boris Valabik is 23 and rookie Zach Bogosian is but 18.
The announced crowd Friday night was 14,813. Among those in the building…former Thrashers’ head coach Bob Hartley.