In a spirited game between a team trying to lock up the Eastern Conference lead and another clinging to hopes of making the playoffs, the Thrashers defeated the Flyers, 1-0 Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Aside from a laundry list of penalties, it was near perfect hockey at both ends, until Thrashers forward Nik Antropov deflected the puck in for the only goal on the night.
In the last half of the season, the Flyers have been guilty of allowing games to get away from them. They didn’t display the same urgency teams typically have at this stage of the season. But in the last few games, including a decisive 5-2 win against their division rivals the Penguins, they’ve definitely ratcheted up the intensity.
Veteran defenseman, Sean O’Donnell, spoke on the team’s recent play.
“I don’t want to look too much into tonight,” he said. “We haven’t played real well lately. Tonight we did some real good things. We were snake-bitten a couple of times. Their goalie played real well.
“We got five [games] left, so we just have to turn this thing around before game one of the playoffs.”
The team put up another playoff worthy performance, peppering Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason with 43 shots on goal, while allowing only 22. They had shots from the point, in close, and everywhere in between. Claude Giroux (7), Danny Briere (6), and Kimmo Timonen (5) led the Flyers in shots.
Their two best chances came from Briere and Jeff Carter. In the first period — on a power play — Briere stood to the side of an open the net, but fired the puck into Mason’s right pad. The second, from Carter, came with only 4.7 seconds remaining and plenty of net to shoot at. The Flyer forward rang it off the post.
“I think we have to be happy with the attempts we had,” said the newly acquired forward Kris Versteeg. “You know, we bear down on a couple more, we have the game pretty much locked up.”
, “It’s tough when you throw everything at the net, and they get a lucky bounce and get the goal,” added Flyers captain Mike Richards.
A lot of credit goes to the Thrashers defense. Although the Flyers dominated puck possession, the Thrashers never allowed them to establish a net presence. Most shots came from the perimeters, and the defensemen took care of the rebounds.
“Atlanta’s fighting for their life tonight,” said Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette. “If they lose they’re done. And they came out and I thought they played hard defensively in the first period. In the second period we had a lot of quality chances where we couldn’t get it done.”
It could seem discouraging to see a team put up such a fight, only to lose, but after a number of lack-luster performances that deserved losses, the Flyers are back on the right track. They’re working hard, battling in corners, forcing turnovers, and not turning the puck over themselves.
The Russian rookie goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, was less than 9:38 away from his first NHL shutout and the first this season for the Flyers. It should be viewed as a victory, as the young netminder has put together a number of good performances in a row. He’s made some great saves that he shouldn’t have and the only one he allowed was deflected off of a skate. He’s played remarkably well down the stretch, and it bodes well for him starting in the playoffs. Bobrovsky’s puck handling has also improved. He frequently comes out of his net and handles the puck with confidence, making good, smart plays.
This was a tough one for the Flyers to lose, but they put up a great fight all the way to the end. And they’ll get a chance to get back in the win column Friday night in New Jersey.
Flyers’ star defenseman Chris Pronger has missed a number of games due to a broken hand, which required surgery. After the game, GM Paul Holmgren addressed the media about it. It was believed Pronger would be healthy enough to get a few games in before the end of the season, but Holmgren stated there has been a setback in the veteran defenseman’s progress. Pronger will most likely be out the remainder of the regular season. However, doctors believe that the veteran defenseman will indeed be ready for the playoffs.