The Thrashers managed to blow a two goal lead today – impressively not once, but twice. Their defensive awareness has always been mildly suspect, but today it became flagrant. For once, though, the offense was there to step up and bail them out.
The game started out well enough, with Blake Wheeler re-directing a shot of Zach Bogosian’s over Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson’s glove. Any momentum that could have started was snuffed when Marek Svatos scored almost two minutes later on a bizarre trickler of a goal that snuck in behind Chris Mason, and possibly glanced in off of Dustin Byfuglien’s skate. Buff was smack in the blue paint, which Ramsay mentioned in his post-game presser as something the defense shouldn’t do. Obviously.
The second period was eventful for Atlanta, as Bryan Little and Ben Maxwell scored nineteen seconds apart to set a new franchise record for fastest two second period goals. Maxwell’s shot was from an absolutely improbable angle that found empty net, while Anderson was trying to argue goaltender interference on Little’s goal to no avail, as it appeared that Erik Karlsson pushed Little into Anderson.
The Thrasher’s two goal lead was short lived, as three minutes later Chris Neal found a hugely open net to Chris Mason’s left hand side, and slid the puck past Chris Thorburn’s stick for Ottawa’s second goal of the night.
The Thrashers got that goal back two minutes into the third period with a tip-in goal by Mark Stuart that almost looked like Ben Maxwell’s second of the evening, and then was credited to Tim Stapleton until video review showed that neither touched the puck on its way to the net from the blueline.
That two goal lead was also short-lived. Eric Condra scored five minutes later on a beautiful pass from Jason Spezza that Bogosian was unable to stop. Bogo managed to get Condra back shortly afterwards, laying him out in a huge open-ice hit.
Ottawa tied the game on Marek Svatos’ second goal of the night on a deflection of a Philip Kuba shot. The Senators got their chance on that goal thanks to the Thrashers’ inability to be assertive towards a puck-carrier or clear the zone properly. Many leads have been blown this season thanks to this, and it probably very well is a reason why so many Thrashers games have had to go into extra time – or that they’ve just flat-out lost.
Andrew Ladd scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Thrashers two points. They now sit nine behind 8th place Buffalo with seven games remaining. The road-trip that is coming up isn’t going to be an easy one, with stops in Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston, Nashville, and New York – all of which are playoff teams as of today.
If their offense plays like they did today, they stand a chance. If the Thrashers’ defense plays like they did today however, they’re going to have a tough final stretch of the season.