Coming into Tonight's action more than a handful of teams were separated by only a point. Which made the contest between the Thrashers and Flyers Thursday night that much more important.
You may be saying to yourself “it's only January” though the Olympic break is coming. And past history shows what can happen when you enter that break on a losing streak. Sometimes it's hard to turn the switch and get back to playing solid Hockey.
The Thrashers took a 1-0 lead with them into the locker room after one period. The Flyers responded with 3 quick goals of their own in the 2nd making the score 3-1 at the end of two periods of play.
That's when things got interesting.
The Flyers who are normally a very strong team when leading after two periods seemed to sag back a bit. The Thrashers who are normally good in the third period no matter the score took full advantage. Illya Kovalchuk scored to make the score 3-2 early in the third after a puck bounced over Flyers defensmen Matt Carle's stick after a face-off to the right of goaltender Ray Emery. Kovalchuk was able to skate in unassaulted and as most of the league knows he doesn't miss those kinds of opportunities.
No big deal. No need for panic from the guys in the Orange and Black. It was simply a freak thing that happens, and the puck just so happened to find the stick of one of the most deadliest scorers in the league.
Though, the Flyers failed to respond, and the Thrashers had jump back in their skates. Rich Peverly scored to tie the game on break away from a coast to coast pass from the Thrashers defensive zone.
No big deal. No need to panic from the guys in the Orange and Black. Break downs happen, after all there is still about 8 minutes remaining in the game. Plenty of time for this offense to put another one in the net.
Once again, the Flyers failed to respond. Despite a few small flurries of offense, most shots weren't tough saves for Johan Hedberg.
Jim Slater who had scored the Thrashers first goal of the evening struck again. On an oddly similar play to the first goal. Basically to break it down young speedster Evander Kane skated into the zone mesmerized the Flyers defense as he skated around the net, only to find a wide open Jim Slater for what had to of been the two easiest goals of his career.
However, on the replay it's clear that Slater pushed Flyers defensemen Matt Carle into goaltender Ray Emery who was not able to recover in time to get back in front of the net before Slater tapped it home. There was no penalty on the play, and perhaps there shouldn't of been. However, nine of ten goalies would of flopped down like they had been shot. Nine out of ten defensemen would have argued the non-call right away. Carle showed a bit of anger but quickly skated away, knowing the referee was not going to change his mind. Speaking of goaltender flopping, the Thrashers were about to cash in on some flopping of their own.
With under 3 minutes left the Flyers were desperate to score. And for the first time since their scoring flurry of the 2nd Period, they had the Thrashers on their heels, pinned in their own zone. Danny Briere camped out in his office, the front of the net, looking for a screen and perhaps a juicy rebound. As he jumped to avoid the shot from the point he brushed up against goaltender Johan Hedberg, who flew his arms into the air and thrusted himself backwards. The arm was up from the referee, 2 minutes for goaltender interference, with only about 2:30 left in the 3rd period. Game, set, match, your winner the Atlanta Thrashers.
About the Author
Written by Mike Santa Barbara
Sports writer covering mostly Philadelphia sports for over 10 years. Work has been featured on RealGM.com, GCobb.com and Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia (CSNPhilly.com.)