All hockey teams blow multi-goal leads over the course of a long season. The good ones figure out a way to win the game.
Bryan Little netted the game-winner in overtime, posting the Atlanta Thrashers to a 4-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night in Ontario.
Dustin Byfuglien set a franchise record with his 11th tally from the blueline and Jim Slater scored for the Thrashers, who have won 10 of their last 12 games.
“Good teams find ways to win, and we’ve been doing that,” Atlanta defenseman Zach Bogosiantold the AP. “(Ondrej Pavelechas) been really big for us. They could have easily went up there by a goal at the end. He made some pretty big saves, so it was big on Bryan Little to step up in overtime and get that win for us.”
Jason Spezza made a no-look pass just inside the Atlanta blueline. Little stole the puck, forwarded it up the ice and beat Ottawa netminder Brian Elliot to the top shelf on a breakaway to give Atlanta its latest win.
The Thrashers finished the night in sole possession of second place in the Southeast, two points behind the Washington Capitals for the division lead.
“I knew the defenseman was coming, and I think he might have had it if it was a little harder of a pass, but it was soft and I had lots of time to get to it,” Little told the Associated Press. “I knew as soon as I tipped it I had a good chance coming up. My eyes lit up, definitely.”
But they sure as heck didn’t make it look easy. Slater opened the scoring by redirecting a rebound into the net midway through the first period before Little netted his first goal of the night by depositing a loose puck into the net from the doorstep at 17:18 of the first.
Then it was time for Big Buff to make his mark in the team’s record book. The Atlanta blueliner muscled in a puck from the doorstep to post the Thrashers to a 3-0 lead with 2:22 left in the second. It took the former Chicago Blackhawks forward just 31 games to do what other Atlanta defensemen were unable to do over an entire season – post 11 goals.
Byfuglien bested the mark of 10 tallies set by Yannick Tremblay in the franchise’s inaugural 1999-00 season and matched by Bogosian last season.
Unfortunately, the Thrashers couldn’t keep the lead. Daniel Alfredsson cut the lead to 3-1 with a rebound goal with 1:29 left in the second period before Chris Neil halved the deficit at 5:48 of the third.
Bogosian was whistled for a penalty shot when he tied up Spezza on a breakaway. Spezza beat Pavelec to knot the game at 3-3 at 7:23 in the final period.
“They were afraid the fans were losing interest at 3-0 so they decided to let them back in it by giving them a couple,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay sarcastically told the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore. “It worked very well. We managed to let them back in it.”
Elliot stopped 20 shots for the Senators. Pavelec stopped 27 shots for the Thrashers.
Chris Thorburn had a pair of helpers for the Thrashers, who finish their three-game road trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
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