All that should have spelled disaster for the Thrashers, especially given the amount of time they spent in the box seeing as they came into the game with an NHL-low 75.2% penalty kill “efficiency”. But on this night, the Blue Shirt team that skated away with a pair of points was the one with the little brown bird on the front as once again they finished off another dramatic come-from-behind thriller.
How many does that make this season? Let’s see…there was the Islander game back in November, the one against Vancouver just after New Years, then again when Toronto was in town two weeks later, Carolina last month, Edmonton and Buffalo earlier this month…now this one. If I’m not mistaken, there was also a game in Montreal earlier in the season where the Thrashers scored three quick goals at the end of the game to fall just short in that one.
Maybe next year’s third jersey could sport the face of an alien?
They overcame this perticular 3-goal deficit thanks to goals by Ilya Kovalchuk, Colby Armstrong and Todd White…who also scored the only shootout goal during the six rounds. Slava Kozlov notched Atlanta’s first goal of the game, which tied it at one-each at the beginning of the second period.
Make no doubt…these were two points the Ranger deperately needed and wanted. They had them both in their grubby mits too…but the Thrashers yanked ‘em away, allowing them to skank away with but one, then gave ‘em the back of their hand, kicked ‘em out the door saying, “Give my regards to old Broadway…ya bums”.
There must have been something in the penalty boxes that the players were very interested in seeing because in the first five minutes or so of the contest players were going out of their way to get over there. It stated with the Rangers’ Paul Mara who put a high-stick on Colby Artmstrong at the 2:19 mark, then 31 seconds later Bryan Little took a tripping call. 56 seconds into the ensuing 4 on 4 Ilya Kovalchuk interfered with a Ranger…16 seconds later, at 4:02 of the first, Ron Hainsey lifted the puck over the glass…by the way, can we just call that perticular play “Ron Hainsey-ing the puck”?… The great parade to the box wasn’t quite over yet as New York just couldn’t handle the man-advantage prosperity and placed too many men on the ice 23 seconds after the Atlanta placed the third player into the box.
Five individual penalties between the two teams in the first 4:25 of the game…all coming within a span of two minutes and six seconds.
Maybe the penalty box judges had the upcoming issue of Playboy featuring Miss April?
Anyway…27 seconds after Markus Naslund entered into the sin-bin to serve the Rangers’ bench minor, it appeared as though his team had taken an early lead. However…upon further review…it was correctly determined that Chris Drury had played the puck with a high stick before then knocking it into the goal.
But the fun didn’t stop there…in the second, the Thrashers accumulated no less than four 2-minute minors as well as a 4-minute high sticking call on Marty Reasoner. New York took a pair of minors themselves.
However, the third period only saw two calls…both on the Thrashers…and this is where the game made it’s biggest turn. Thirty-five seconds after Army had pulled Atlanta to within a single goal, Kovy drew a high-sticking call…retaliating against Sean Avery’s knee job. With forty-five seconds remaining in that minor, Jimmy Slater was sent off for the same infraction. Atlanta was able to kill off the ensuing 5 on 3 and then the 1:15 that was left on Slater’s penalty. Keeping the score at 4-3 New York set up White’s heroics with 6:50 remaining in the third.
Meanwhile…back on defense…Moose was only having to face four shots during the third period, stopping them all. For the game, New York was limited to only 24 SOG in during regulation, 17 at even-strength, and took 3 in overtime.
Atlanta finished the season series with the Rangers on an up-note…going 2-1-1 against the Broadway Bums, winning two shootout affairs.
Now, with the win, the Thrashers move to 31-38-6 for the season. The 68 points after 75 games is only 2 points less than the 70 they had after the same amount of games last season. A win Saturday night against the Senators would match the 70 they had after 76 games. As I’ve said before…that may not seem like a lot to get excited about, but this team was on track for 62 points at the beginning of the calendar year so this is quite an achievement.
The victory also gives Atlanta a record of 8-4-0 in March with one more remaining in the month. If you’re looking for some definition of “incremental progress”, simply go back to the month of December and look at the the improvement made month-by-month since that time.
Also, the win still keeps the possibility alive that they can finish with a .500 record. If…IF…IF…they were to win the last seven games, they would finish with a record of 38-38-6. Think about THAT for just a second.
If they can net only eight more points they would match last year’s total of 76. Nine more points…say going 4-2-1…would allow them to improve on that total.
Lastly…the Thrashers already have bettered their O-fensive production from last year when they scored only 216 goals…this year they already have netted 231. However, if they can find a way to give up less than 13 goals in these last seven games, they would improve on last year’s 272 goals against. That’s a tall order, I know…less than 2 per game. But it sure would be something to see that happen… especially given just how bad the defense looked in the first half of the season.