Some might say the Thrashers shouldn’t have even been in the situation they found themselves in…the score tied 3-3 with just over nine minutes elapsed in the third period. They had come out of the locker room up 3-1, thanks greatly to some fine goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec, solid defensive work and goals from Zach Bogosian, Jim Slater and Rich Peverley.
But Rich Peverley took a questionable slashing call at the 6:06 mark…Darin Elliot called it a “marginal” call, I call it a load of male bovine excretion. Then, exactly one minute into killing off the Carolina man-advantage, Boris Valabik was tagged with roughing call to put them down by two men. It was one of those plays where the defender took exception to an attacker’s extra swipe or two as the goalie was covering up the puck, stepping in to push the player out. In this instance, it was Eric Stall…who didn’t much care for the way he was treated by Boris.
Glances were given…words were exchanged…feeling were hurt…a few soft punched were swung…but only Boris took a seat. I could see sending both off, even neither of them…but the Thrashers found themselves having to kill off a 5 on 3 nonetheless.
And with that…the Hurricane watch was on.
Pavelec made a couple outstanding saves to help get Atlanta within 3 ticks of the clock from successfully getting Peverley back on the ice with no damage done… but Jussi Jokinen’s score pulled the Canes to within one.
Three seconds after the Thrashers then killed off Valabik’s minor, Ray Whitney tied the game.
And with that, the Hurricane watch became a full-fledged Hurricane warning and the U.S.S. Thrashers…whose hull has been labeled “fragile” previously… was adrift in the storm, taking on water and listing to port.
But that’s when the captain Ilya Kovalchuk stepped up in the bridge, took the wheel and righted the vessel he has been commissioned to command.
Less than a minute after the game-tying goal, Kovy took control of the puck near the blueline, moved left to right and snapped it past Cam Ward to give his team back their lead. In doing so, he righted the ship and set it back on course.
Later, during the dying seconds of the game, he directed the puck from the neutral zone back into the Cane’s end of the ice then dished it off to Nik Antropov…allowing him to notch the game-sealing empty-netter.
The third period tempest wasn’t the first storm the Thrashers had to weather in this game that had more twists and turns than a western Carolina mountain county road. In the second period, with the score knotted at one, Pavelec was forced to face an Eric Staal penalty shot…one that was awarded after the Carolina center was slashed by Slava Kozlov during a breakaway. Opie saved the shot Stall was able to get away despite the infraction…but the penalty shot was called regardless.
Turns out it didn’t matter as Eric was denied once again by Opie.
Had Staal been successful on that or the original shot, Carolina would have taken a lead and, even though the Thrashers had outplayed Carolina to that point, the momentum would have clearly swung in the Canes direction.
“It was 1-1, and if they score a goal, it could be tough”, Pavelec said afterwards. “He tried to shoot it 5-hole, and it hit my stick. It was a big save”.
For the night, Pavelec saved 29 of 32 shots. This comes after turning away 30 of Buffalo’s 32 attempts last Thursday and 30 of Ottawa’s 31 on Tuesday. For the week, Opie was 2-0-1 with a .937 SV% and 1.98 GAA.
The 5-3 win improves his overall record to 11-12-4 with a 3.47 GAA and .904 SV%.
Zach Bogosian scored his first goal since the 3-2 win against Edmonton back on November 15.
Rich Peverley notched his 14th of the year and only his second in the past fourteen games.
Just 72 seconds before the Peever’s goal, Jim Slater put the Thrashers up 2-1. For Slates, it was goal number 5 on the season and fourth in six games. During that stretch, dating back to the 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh a week and a half ago, Slater has 4 goals, 2 assists and is a +3.
Methinks Todd White has just been “Slater-ed” to a full-time seat in the press box.
Ten of the Thrashers skaters got on the scoreboard with a goal and/or assists. Kovalchuk, Slater, Antropov, Bogosian and Peverley each had multi point efforts. Fourteen finished with a Positive +/- rating…Bogosian leading the way with a +4.
“You have to have four lines to win”, coach Anderson said. “You can’t just have one line that goes out there to kill time. When the lines are set up that way, everyone has to contribute. It’s working out good so far”.
Marty Reasoner and Chris Thorburn were EVEN while Christoph Schubert and Valaik were each a –1.
The Thrashers are now 21-19-7 and the 49 points keep them in second place in the Southeast Division ahead of Florida’s 48 and Tampa Bay’s 46. They are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, tied with the tenth-place Flyers who have played one less game. The pair trails Montreal and the Islanders by two point and the seventh-place Rangers by two. Ottawa sits in sixth place in the conference with 52 points.
And finally…the 5-3 win in Carolina was the first regulation road win for the Thrashers since November 27 when they defeated Carolina 6-4 behind a five-goal third period.