Through the first forty minutes, nothing happened of note. The goaltending was perfect on both sides, and the Thrashers penalty kill was humming effectively along, going two for two.
And then the third period happened.
The Thrashers recent scoring woes made for some nervousness after Dennis Wideman scored to capitalize on a too many men on the ice bench minor penalty. The Panthers struck again, after Tobias Enstrom slashed a Florida player coming in to score. While on the power play, Dimitry Kulikov backhanded it into an open net past a tied up Pavelec and Brent Sopel to put the Panthers up 2-0.
Coach Craig Ramsay pulled Ondrej Pavelec with just over two minutes left, and the Panthers promptly missed an empty net goal by a foot. In the play after the icing call, Bryan Little knocked home the puck during a massive scrum in front of the net to cut the lead to one. Little again shot the puck to the net, and it trickled past Clemmensen to tie the game. There is debate over who scored the second goal – it was Little’s shot and it crossed the goal line before Kane shoved it to the back of the net for insurance, but the NHL.com boxscore credits Chris Thorburn with the point. Regardless of who scored, it was enough to force overtime and eventually the shootout.
The Thrashers had won just two shootouts this season, with Pavelec’s first career shootout win coming on December 30th against the Boston Bruins. It did not begin well, with Mike Santorelli scoring on Pavelec on the first shot. Bryan Little evened it up, while Pavelec stopped Stephen Weiss, who had two assists on the night. Alexander Burmistrov scored what would prove to be the game winner in the shootout, as Pavelec stonewalled Cory Stillman on the next shot.
The win broke the Thrashers’ season high four game losing streak, and also keeps them three points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Canes lost today, shut out by the Boston Bruins 7-0. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens still have a bit of a lead on the Thrashers as do the New York Rangers – both teams are up by three points on Atlanta. With tonight’s win, though, the Thrashers are still in the thick of things. As pointed out by Ben Wright this evening on Twitter:
Despite the recent slide the #Thrashers are still only 4 points behind Washington and Tampa and play the Lightning twice this week.
It’s just January 17th, and the season isn’t over by a long shot. Here’s hoping that this come from behind win gives the team the momentum it needs to get back on track.