The Thrashers were up to their old tricks Friday night…playing themselves into deficits of 2-0 and 4-1 before mounting a ferocious comeback. Only this time, they weren’t doing so in the friendly confines of Philips Arena…they were in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ya know, as I have opined before…I love Carolina Hurricane fans. I guess the Thrashers just feel at home with them as well.
After playing arguably their best game of the season… laying a goose egg on the Red Wings in Detroit… Atlanta was in the process of simply laying egg in the ice of RBC Center…trailing by three with less than 14 minutes left to play. They were being out-scored, out-shot, out-hustles, out-hit, out-chanced…just plain out-ed all night long.
The Thrashers started playing just a Little bit better…as in Bryan Little.
With just over six minutes left in the game, Little fought his way to win the puck off to the right of Manny Legace’s goal and fed a beautiful pass back to Slava Kozlov, who then promptly buried the shot. It was Kozlov’s third goal in as many games and it ignited a 3 goal in 2:39 outburst for the visiting Thrashers.
I had no sooner thought to myself, “Self…I sure hope that great play will help get Bryan finally going”…when Little took a pass from Zach Bogosian through center ice, flew through the Canes defense on the left side, then passed the puck back to a trailing Rich Peverley… who then dispensed the puck into the net for the game winner.
This is the kind of game we’ve been waiting for out of Little all season, and can you just imagine what this offense is capable of if he does indeed carry this effort over into future games?
Ondrej Pavelec recovered from four goals in the first two periods…one coming via an e-GREEee-gious misplay of the puck behind the net that led to Carolina’s second goal. For the night, he stopped 32 of 36 shots faced, including all 9 he was tested with during the final 20 minutes…his record now improving to 8-5-3 with a 2.84 GAA and .921 SV%.
Evander Kane got the Atlanta’s first goal of the night, coming at the 10:31 mark of the second period…which was the best way to respond to the big hit put on him at the beginning of the period. Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov each netted goals in that incredible third period to dig the Thrashers out of their hole and tie the game at 4-4.
Kovy and Max each assisted on the other’s goal…along with Toby Enstrom who got the primary on the captain’s and the secondary on Afinogenov’s. For the evening, Enstrom earned three assists as he also made the great pass to Kane for Evander’s goal.
Toby finished a +4, as did Pavel Kubina.
And then there is Marty Reasoner…whose empty-netter with 63 seconds left finally got him off of Schnide Island. So, if you were like me and voted that Jim Slater would be last off The Schnide…you chose wisely!
The Thrashers are now 12-7-3 for 27 points..a level they did not reach until game number 34 last season when the beat the Islanders 4-2 to earn points 27 and 28. Little scored twice in that game.
They are second in the Southeastern Division and tied with Philadelphia and both New York teams for the 7th through 10th spots in the East. However, given that Atlanta has played one fewer game than the Flyers, two fewer than the Rangers and four fewer than the Islanders…they currently hold the 7th spot in the conference, one behind Buffalo and two behind Boston.
Speaking of Philly…Saturday night it’ll be the Flyers in town, whom the Thrashers haven’t beaten since…since…flipping though stacks of stat sheets and records…since…hell, the Hoover administration I think.
Actually, it was November 18, 2005 when Greg DeVries scored in overtime to beat them 6-5. Atlanta trailed 5-3 with less than two minutes in that game before Peter Bondra and Patrik Stefan were able to pull off heroics.
As much as I like these thrilling comeback victories, though…I do not suggest the Thrashers employing the “Dig-Out-Of-A-Two-Or-Three-Goal-Hole” strategy against these guys.