The Atlanta Thrashers had an uncharacteristic three day break this week. When they came back onto the ice on Friday, it looked like most of them were still on vacation.
Milan Hejduk netted the game-winning goal 42 seconds into the third period and Paul Stastny added a short-handed empty net tally, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-2 win over the Thrashers at Philips Arena.
Niclas Bergfors and Bryan Little scored for Atlanta, which snapped a six-game home winning streak.
“It was the first time in a long time we had a few days off between games and we didn’t react well,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “As the coach, I have to take a lot of the blame. Whether we practiced too hard or whatever, we were just not ready.”
The rested Thrashers were the team that came into this one flat as Colorado blistered the first eight shots of the game. Nevertheless, Atlanta took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after Andrew Ladd slid the puck to Bergfors at the front of the net. Bergfors beat Colorado goalie Craig Anderson at 5:37 of the first to post the Thrashers to a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta’s netminder Ondrej Pavelec kept the Thrashers in this one, making 16 saves in the first period, a period in which Atlanta mustered just five shots.
“We weren’t ready for the game,” Pavelec said. “In the first two periods, we didn’t shoot the puck. We played a great third period, but it wasn’t enough. We have to be ready to play next game.”
As bad as the Thrashers were in the first, it was a bad break — and not sub-par play — that lead to the equalizer in the second.
Zach Bogosian attempted to clear the puck into the Colorado zone on an Avalanche power play, but the puck bounced off of a linesman. Matt Duchene grabbed the puck and fed Tomas Fleischmann for the game-tying tally at 4:39 of the frame.
Colorado took a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded goal by Greg Mauldin at 11:01 of the middle session. The goal, which was the first shorthanded goal allowed by the Thrashers this season, came one second after Chris Thorburn’s holding penalty expired. Atlanta had a 46 second power play when Statsny was whistled for tripping during Thorburn’s penalty.
The Thrashers fought back on a goal by Little at 15:13 of the second, but the Avs scored a pair of goals to put the game away in the third.
Fleishmann fed Hejduk at the short side of the net to post the Avalanche to a 3-2 lead before Statsny finished it with a shorthanded tally with 32 seconds remaining. Atlanta’s streak at home was history.
“We didn’t stick to a good plan,” Ramsay said. “We played on our heels. We have to be more aggressive.”
Ben Eager had a chance to tie it in the final moments of the third period, when he got his own rebound on the doorstep. But Anderson somehow got his right pad between the net and the puck to save the day for Colorado.
“The puck was bouncing and landed there,” Eager said. “I got a piece of it, but their goalie made a great save.”
Anderson made 24 saves for the Avalanche. Pavelec steered aside 25 shots for the Thrashers, who lost for just the second time in 10 games.
Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane added assists for the Thrashers, who play again on Saturday night against the struggling New York Islanders on Long Island.
“We have a game (on Saturday), so we can’t sit around and think too much about (Friday night’s) game,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “We are going to study some video and talk about how we can get better.”
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