Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thrashers Top Avalanche 4-3 In Riotous Return to Phillips Arena

The Atlanta Thrashers beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 at Phillips Arena on Tuesday night. The Thrashers finally returned home after an eventful West Coast road trip saw them go 2-1-1 and score gobs of goals.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 10th goal in his last eight games, and Marty Reasoner also scored. Tobias Enstrom and Rich Peverley also scored short-handed goals for the Thrashers, continuing what has been an extremely promising trend of aggressiveness when the team is down a man.

Peter Budaj took the loss for the Avs, and he looked shaky from the start. He gave up goals on two of the first three shots that he faced, and he repeatedly played the puck too aggressively and nearly allowed the Thrashers to make it a blowout before fans had even settled in their seats.

Reasoner's goal with eight minutes left in the first period made it a 3-0 hockey game, and many thought that the rout was on (at least those of us watching the game on NHL GameCenter and using the chat room thought).

It started with Milan Hejduk. Putting on his offense-badge, Milan hammered a puck past Kari Lehtonen with a minute and a half remaining in the first to send the game to intermission 3-1 in favor of Atlanta.

Coming out of the break, the Avs looked lost at times to begin the period. The Thrashers were unable to make them pay for their loose play, however, and the Avalanche made them pay. Milan Hejduk scored with nine minutes left in the second period, and the Avs were threatening again on a power play just four minutes later.

After some pretty poor passing, Peverley made his move, snagged a wayward pass, and broke down the ice and scored to make it 4-2 and once again ensure that the Thrashers would not be defeated in the game. Atlanta continued to play solid defense and the second intermission came with the score 4-2 and the fans feeling pretty content with the effort.

In the third period, it was once again a struggle. Both sides were playing with a measured tone, not wanting to risk giving up the all important edge. The Avalanche tried and tried to put the puck in the net throughout the period, and they couldn't take advantage of some opportunities that Atlanta gave them.

Finally, with a minute and a half left in the game, Chris Stewart scored a goal while Colorado had six men on the ice to cut the lead to one. After the clock wound down and hearts around the arena stopped pounding underneath the sky blue jerseys, the Thrashers emerged from the smoke with a 4-3 win. Aided by a late penalty to Colorado, the Thrashers had proven that yes, they can win at home too.

The three stars of the game were:

3rd Star: I. Kovalchuk (1 G)

2nd Star: E. Perrin (1 A)

1st Star: T. Enstrom (1 G, 1 A)

My take on the games' stars: Putting Perrin among the three stars is a feat that could only be accomplished by a doofus. Not putting Rich Peverley, who only had a goal and an assist (and that goal was the game winning goal, by the way) in the game, as a star was dumb enough, but the guy who assisted on the first goal of the game was a star. Does that make sense? No. It doesn't.

Random Notes: This win was only the fifth for Atlanta at home in their last 21 games. Ilya Kovalchuk's goal was his 20th in the team's last 24 games.

Atlanta's next game will be Thursday at 6pm against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. The game can be seen on Sports South, and features two of the game's best left wings in Ilya Kovalchuk and some guy named Ovechkin. Never heard of him. Anyway, check that out, and good night from Blueland.

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