It was a first period to forget for Chris Mason and the Thrashers. The Maple Leafs were the team that played late the night before, losing 6-5 in a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Thrashers were the team that looked gassed. Poor passing, inability to maintain puck possession, and a couple of weal goals by Chris Mason put the team down 2-0 after 20 minutes.
The first goal came on a rebound from a Mikhail Grabovski shot on Mason. Mason kicked it out and directly to Nikolai Kulemin. In the resulting scrum in front of the goal, Kulemin was able to knock it in past a defending Nik Antropov to put the Leafs up by one. The second goal was a Phil Kessel shot that no one got credit for an assist on – which is because you can’t give credit for an assist to a player on the opposing team. Evander Kane left a drop pass for no one in particular – a move that was practiced so many times in warm-ups that it became evident that it would be attempted during the game – and Kessel swooped in, grabbed the puck, and fired the shot past Mason.
Mason luckily managed to put a bad first period behind him, stonewalling Grabovski on a surefire bid to put the Leafs up 3-0. Unfortunately for Toronto, Mason’s counterpart James Reimer suffered a bump on the head courtesy of Kane’s knee during goaltender interference at the end of the first period, and was replaced by J.S. Giguere, who was fairly solid for the second period.
The third period was Atlanta’s chance to come roaring back, and they took it. Andrew Ladd scored his sixth goal in six games just 23 seconds into the third period on the power play. Coach Ramsay had this to say about his captain: “He’s trying to take the team and drag it.” That’s an understatement.
Fifteen minutes later, Tim Stapleton knocked in another rebound off of a Zach Bogosian shot. The puck bounced around a bit, but Stapleton was able to score his first of the season before Giguere was able to set himself again. Stapleton was placed on waivers yesterday, so apparently that lit a fire under the forward’s butt, as did getting bumped up to center the second line. Stapleton also delivered more than a few timely hits in that period to knock the puck loose to get plays going.
Ron Hainsey nailed a pass from Bryan Little blocker side on Giguere at 2:31 of the overtime period. Hainsey’s second goal of the season couldn’t’ve come at a better time, and earned the defenseman first star of the night honors.
The Thrashers (as well as the Leafs) are both four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Their next game is Tuesday night at 7:00 against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.