New Jersey’s streaks of allowing only two goals a game and holding an opponent scoreless in the first period continues with tonight’s win over the Thrashers. Atlanta looked scrambled and sloppy at times over the game, and completely wasted an excellent performance by Ondrej Pavelec, who finished with 27 saves on 30 shots.
The most frustrating issue is that the Thrashers have an inability to maintain a lead. Blake Wheeler scored his fourth goal as a Thrasher halfway through the second period to give the Thrashers a 1-0 lead. Almost immediately after that goal, Tobias Enstrom got called for a hi-sticking minor, and then nine seconds after that Chris Thorburn got called for the exact same thing. Neither penalty was a necessary one to take, and Enstrom’s proved costly as the Devils’ Travis Zajac tied it at 1-1.
At 4:52 of the third period, Dustin Byfuglien beat Martin Brodeur glove-side to give Atlanta another lead, but it would be short lived. In an effort to get under Ilya Kovalchuk’s skin, the crowd booed and heckled him every time he touched the puck. Of course, it had the opposite effect. The crowd behind Pavelec was silly enough to start to chant “Kovy sucks” while Kovalchuk was standing to Pavelec’s right, and he was able to flip the puck into the net. He celebrated by slamming himself into the glass, laughing.
The crowd continued to chant “Kovy sucks.” Talk about not learning from experience.
Of course, the Thrashers forced yet another overtime – though Tim Stapleton’s flying bid to win it in literally the last second was appreciated if not successful. The Thrashers looked like they’d caught a break when Mark Fayne was called for tripping at 1:34 of overtime, but the ensuing powerplay by the Thrashers was atrocious and resulted in more time spent in their own end than in New Jersey’s.
Evander Kane got whistled for tripping as well twenty seconds after the penalty was killed by New Jersey, and you could almost feel what was going to happen. So could the Thrashers, because they allowed Travis Zajac to score his second goal of the night, assisted by Patrik Elias and – of course – Ilya Kovalchuk.
The crowd chanted “Kovy sucks” again.
The Devils still sit in 12th place, two points behind Atlanta, who is now six points out of a playoff spot. The team has a chance to get two more points on the Rangers tomorrow night in Philadelphia. The Flyers have been slumping recently, but they’re still the top team in the Eastern Conference.