There have been a few very memorable opening night games at Philips Arena over the past decade. First there was the 4-1 loss to begin their first ever season in 1999…hockey was officially back in Atlanta that night. Then there was 2003 when the team and the fans paid their respects to the late Dan Snyder before a very emotional 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last year saw a 7-4 win over the Capitals in which John Anderson earned his first NHL coaching win over his good friend Bruce Boudreaux.
And now, ten years and one day after that initial opening night against the Devils, the Thrashers kicked-off season number ten with a thrilling 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of an electrified crowd announced at 18,545. The game played out much like last years opener when they got off to a 4-0 lead…saw the caps come back to tie…then pulled away in the third. This time, after building a four-goal lead, the Lightning scored three unanswered goals…two by Martin St. Louis…and then put the game away with two of their own.
Leading the way was captain Kovalchuk who notched a pair of goals and added an assist. The Pevs Dispenser also had two goals and a helper while defenders Zach Bogosian and Anssi Salmela stepped up into the attack to score goals as well.
I hear that John Anderson likes that kinda play from his blueliners.
Rookie Evander Kane picked up his first ever NHL career point after cutting through on the left side and assisting on Peverley’s first goal of the night. EK also led the Thrashers with 4 shots on goal. That’s a nice first game in the NHL, eh? He keeps this up and the team is going to have a tough decision to make in a couple of weeks.
Ondrej Pavelec, I thought, had a very solid game Saturday night…holding the Bolts scoreless on their first nineteen shots on goal. Pavs stopped 36 of 39 Tampa Bay shots, which equates to a .923 SV%…not shabby at all. He saved some of his best for when it counted most in the third…holding his ground on a Andrej Meszaros breakaway and then made a quality stop on Steven Stamkos.
“He kept us in the game early”, Anderson said of Pavelec afterwards.
See, I told you Opie was gonna do just fine…nothing to worry about!
Eric Boulton got the evening off to a raucous start when he absolutely plastered a Lightning player in the far corner. I didn’t see just whom it was that got knocked silly…all I could see was a pair of skates sticking up outa the ice. It was simply a ferocious hit!
Along with Kane, three other players made their debut in Thrasherville. Defenseman Pavel Kubina finished the night a +1 in 20:22 TOI. Forwards Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov also played in their first regular season game in a Thrashers uniform. Antropov didn’t figure in the scoring, but finished with 2 shots and a +1 while Max joined Kovy in assisting on the Peever’s second goal and was a –1 with 3 SOG.
Mark Popovic finished a +1 in his return to the Atlanta lineup.
One play that did not result in a goal that stands out in my mind came during the second period. Kovy made a beautiful cross-ice pass from the left side of center ice over to Antropov crossing the blueline on the right. Antro then found Brian Little streaking through the left side and fed him with a picture-perfect pass for a quality scoring chance. Again, while not resulting in a goal, it’s the kind of stuff Thrashers fans are looking for from this top line.
Also, Nik did a great job of denying Tampa Bay a goal during the first period, taking away the far side of the post on a wrap around play.
Best fight of the night? Has to be the Chris Thorburn vs. Zenon Konopka bout in the second period. It came right after Peverley’s goal and they traded several heavy blows during the lengthy battle.
Now the Thrashers get a break, in my opinion. Unlike the last couple of years, they do not have to go on the road to play the second game of the season the very next night. They will get four days of rest before their first away game in St. Louis on Thursday night. The Blues will be coming home after two wins against the Detroit Red Wings in Sweden.
Now Matter Where I Sit…There’s Hockey Biltong!
Along with the number of lurkers I had the pleasure of meeting last night, it was very nice to share section 104 with a few of our regular contributors. Darkhorse, his lovely wife and their friends were just a couple rows behind me…and just a section over, none other than World Be Free and the charming Mrs. WBF. Following me from section 119 to the club section Saturday was Hockey Biltong…who I swear is stalking me…and the engaging Mrs. Biltong. She’s finally come up with a snappy username to post under…I hope she unveils it here soon.
Just prior to the drop of the puck, the four of us gathered together for what could only be classified has a high-level, Rawhide/Iceman blog power confab.
Closeby was Bill and his adorable daughter Jessie…I always enjoy seeing those two at games. Also, it was very nice to have met Rightshot while enjoying the Taco Mac post game show.
IMPORTANT SCHEDULE UPDATE: Oct. 10 Viewing Party at TJ’s Cancelled/Rescheduled
Due to the fact that this coming Saturday night’s game in Ottawa is not being aired in Atlanta or Ottawa…the game will not be on Center Ice. Thus, there will be no viewing party at TJ’s on Oct. 10. Instead, Mark, Tim and I have agreed to reschedule it for Saturday night Nov. 7 when the Thrashers play on Long Island. The game will not be on local TV, but there will be a feed from MSG Network.
Also, remember that we’ll have a viewing party with the Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club on Saturday Oct. 17 when the Thrashers are in Buffalo. Also, the Party Bus event is on for Oct. 24 from TJ’s to the game in Philips when Dany Heatley and the Sharks are in town…and there’s still a few seats left. We will then do the viewing party on Nov. 7 as discussed and the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving when we play in Detroit.
Godspeed And Good Luck, Nikita
Please join me in wishing Nikita a fond farewell as she attended her last game before moving to Pennsylvania.
Good luck, Nikita…remember, there is this little thing call NHL Center Ice and I’m sure the internet has found it’s way to the Keystone State. Don’t be a stranger!