That giant skid mark smeared all over the ice of Philips Arena was what remained of a New York Islanders team that are finding themselves falling father and farther out of the playoff picture. They came into Thursday night’s game losing seven of their last ten and the Thrashers, who have been heading in the opposite direction of late, took advantage of some early chances to push New York right out the back door…in the end, dropping them 6-3.
Playing major roles in flushing the Islander were newbies Evgeny Artyukhin, Clarke MacArthur, playing their first games as Thrashers, and Niclas Bergfors…a veteran on seven whole games now.
The Antropov-Little-Bergfors line was responsible for the first two goals. At 5:01 into the first period, Bergie notched the game’s first goal on a nice pass from the right side of the net by Little… Antropov earning the secondary assist.
That Bergie kid, all he does is score goals. He’s got four now in his seven games as a Thrasher.
Antropov then netted goal number two for Atlanta 3:47 later, cracking one off from the left circle… Little again with the assist off a fine pass from the right circle.
But shortly after the fans backside’s had found their way back into their seats, just 25 seconds later MacArthur scored his first goal as a Thrasher to make the score 3-0. The play was set up by a forechecking Maxim Afinogenov behind New York’s goal to get the puck out in front of Dwayne Roloson.
It was the last shot Rolo would see on the night as he was lifted in favor of Martin Biron..the decision coming as the Islander troops were massing at the bench for a timeout. Roloson allowed four goals on seven shots during his 9:16 TOI and it was the second game in a row that the Thrashers caused their opponents to burn their timeout before the first intermission.
But much to the Islanders dismay, the goalie switch wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding as just over five minutes later Afinogenov took a Peverley pass crossing the blueline and buried a shots past Biron to give the Thrashers a four-goal lead.
This type of fast start is in stark contrast to the way so many other games have started off this year. I like this way much better, thank you very much.
Not to be ignored, however, on the other end of the ice was one Mr. Johan Hedberg who was in the process of stopping the first 20 shots he faced in the opening period before allowing a Mark Streit power play goal on the twenty-first.
Uh-huh, you saw that right…Atlanta’s defense allowed 21 shots to get through on the Moose in the first. They also took the only two minor penalties and lost 11 of the 18 face offs in that opening period…but found themselves up leading by three after twenty minutes of play. The Thrashers took but ten shots on goal themselves, but they managed to pop out four goals nonetheless.
Halfway through the second period, Bergfors got in on yet another goal, launching a wrister from the left circle. Antropov was providing the screen in front of Biron and it was determined Nic had deflected it in for his second of the game. It came while the Thrashers were enjoying a man advantage…the power play resulting from a hustling Afinogenov who was tripped up while pursuing the puck behind the net.
Five minutes later, another newbie… Evgeny Artyukhin… put on a speed skating exhibition. He scooped up the puck behind Hedberg…scooted unmolested up the right side and out of the zone …gathered speed as he flew past the benches, through center ice and into the Islanders zone…zipped through the defense…moved in from the right to slip the puck past Biron in an almost nonchalant manner.
Ya know, I had read a few pieces about this kid’s deceptive speed given his size…but just dah-YUM! He moved through the Islanders system faster than a bean burrito lunch special.
And just like that, Atlanta was up 6-1 after two periods of play…the Islanders obviously missing defenseman Andy Sutton who was shipped off to Ottawa Wednesday morning.
A couple of Islander goals in the third help put a prettier face on the score sheet, but by that time the damage had been done.
However, I must say that despite the nice victory, I didn’t like the way the Thrashers seemed to let take their foot off the throttle in the final twenty minutes…only able to squirt through three shots on the Islander goal. When you have a team dangling like that in the end, you can’t relax…instead you have to just keep on pushing until the remains are circling the drain.
For the night, Hedberg stopped 34 of 37 shots to improve his record to 16-9-5. The sixteen victories are the most Moose has piled up since going 25-34-7 in 2001-02 while with Pittsburgh. He is now 52-40-13 as a Thrasher.
Both Afinogenov and Bergfors finished with a goal, one assist on three shots and was a +2…Bryan Little had a pair of assists and was a +2…Bogosian, Hainsey and Peverley each had one assists, Ron and Rich finished a +2 while Bogey was a +1…R2 scored on his only shot on the night and was a +1…and Nic Antropov had a three point night with a pair of goals, one assists on two shots and was a +1.
Meanwhile…as the Thrashers were pinching off the Islanders, the other New York team was busy netting a point in the standings as the lost to Pittsburgh in overtime and Boston gathered two points by downing the Maple Leafs in a shootout.
That means the middle of the Eastern Conference standing are really packed tight with Atlanta and Rangers moving into a tie with Montreal for eighth place…each have 66 points pending the Canadiens game in San Jose.
If the Sharks can beat Montreal in regulation, then the Thrashers would technically own eighth place in conference given the fact that they’ve played fewer games.
Boston is clinging on to seventh place with 67 points and Philly is stuck at 69 after their 7-4 loss to the Panthers Wednesday night.
One last note…the Thrashers now have 66 points after 62 games played…which is 16 points better than what they had after this many games last year, (22-34-6 for 50 points). If they finish 16 points better then they did last season, they would have 92 points.
EDIT: According to Chris Vivlamore on Friday afternoon, Bergfors has been credited with the power play goal in the second period. Thus, he had a pair of goals and Antropov finished with one.