It was a miracle that the Thrashers got one puck past Roberto Luongo.
The Thrashers weren’t completely schooled by the league leading Vancouver Canucks like many thought they would be, but they were constantly frustrated by their goaltender, who put on an absolutely stellar performance worthy of his first star of the game selection. Atlanta generally pressured the net, though better in the first and second half of the third period than at any other point in the game. Their 31 shots on goal were taken more from high percentage scoring areas than they have in the past, and many shots looked to be sure-fire goals, until Luongo’s glove hand popped up, or his pad slammed down.
Chris Mason’s stopping of Daniel Sedin on that penalty shot in the first period could have been a mood-setter for the Thrashers, as it was a solid save against someone who is one of the best players in the game. Unfortunately, the Thrashers have issues seizing momentum – rather, they usually just seize up – and instead of taking a very solid first period into the locker room and building on it, they choked up.
The second period was rife with turnovers and a general lack of communication, both of which led to goals. Mason Raymond’s goal 5:08 into the period was aided by an Evander Kane turnover which turned into a trickler between Mason’s pads. The goal came after the both Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler had excellent chances on net that Luongo improbably stopped. The momentum shifted for just a second, and the puck wound up in the net.
A poor line-change led to Alexandre Bolduc’s goal, said coach Craig Ramsay:
“The second goal was really a killer,” Ramsay said. “We had the puck and then changed. Three guys changed on the play and allowed them the two-on-one.”
Poor line changes are usually a bench problem and a coaching communication issue – and are inexcusable when the opponent has a chance to get the puck on you.
Bryan Little scored the Thrashers’ only goal in the third period on an outstanding break away where he was able to get the puck around Luongo in the tiny bit of open net that existed to the goaltender’s left. Momentum appeared to be on Atlanta’s side for a little while, but the team promptly killed it. Awarded a little extra time at the end of the game, the Thrashers had six men out on the power play to try to get the equalizing goal. Unfortunately, Vancouver won the face off and Alexandre Burrows whapped the puck all the way down the ice for the empty net goal that sealed the game – and probably Atlanta’s playoff hopes.
A small moral victory can be had, I suppose, in the fact that Atlanta kept both of the Sedin twins off of the board; but the game exposed why Vancouver is successful and the Thrashers currently are not – secondary scoring, and the ability to take over and maintain the flow of the game.
Also a small moral victory is that Little is regaining some of his scoring touch that made him such a force in 2008-2009: