Penalties once again doom Thrashers

ATLANTA — Craig Ramsay is fed up with his team’s penalties.

The Thrashers committed eight penalties in Friday’s 5-2 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and saw three of them result in power play goals.

“It’s just craziness,” the Thrashers head coach said. “We just have to stop committing penalties, and we can’t blame the referees, it’s on us. When you put teams on the power play that often, they are going to score, especially teams as talented as they are.”

Less than three minutes into the game, Atlanta was down two men for a nearly full two minutes. It didn’t last long, as Tampa Bay defenseman Brett Clark deposited the puck past Chris Mason and into the net with assists from Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

Atlanta had a splendid opportunity to tie the game minutes later when Evander Kane intercepted a pass at center ice and had a clean breakaway, only to be denied by Tampa goalie Mike Smith.

Things didn’t improve much from there as by the halfway point of the period Atlanta was being outshot 12-3.

And after a couple of Tampa Bay penalties, the Thrashers had a two-man advantage of their own for 1:19 with a chance to tie the game, only to come away empty handed. In fact, Atlanta had trouble even entering the offensive zone and managed only one shot on net.

One second after the prolonged power play ended, Johnny Oduya had his pocket picked in front of his own net by Sean Bergenheim.  Bergenheim then fed Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier who wristed a soft shot past Mason.

Stamkos extended the lead to 3-0 on a power play, on another shot Mason probably should have stopped.

The main question the Thrashers faced prior to boarding their flight to Washington for Saturday’s match-up with the reeling Capitals, was how to they get off to a fast start?

“We need to find a way to start better,” said Atlanta defenseman Brent Sopel. “We know about it, and we are talking about [starting better] in the locker room, but we just have to do it.”

Offered defenseman Johnny Oduya: “Maybe we need to focus less on the other team and just play our game. We have to, because it’s very hard on the goaltenders.”

Peter Mannino replaced Mason to start the second, which was a much better stanza for the Thrashers. They skated and won battles, highlighted by rookie center Alex Burmistrov, who eventually drew the ire of Tampa instigator Steve Downie.

He immediately had teammates rush to his aid, and Ramsay said it needed to be done, penalties be dammed.

“We have to stand up for a young kid like that. It’s foolishness to have a player like Downie go after a kid like that.”

Linemate Chris Thorburn agreed: “We have to make sure he’s alright. He’s strong enough to handle himself, but he shouldn’t have to be in that situation.”

Jim Slater got Atlanta on the board at 8:07 in the second, but Stamkos restored Tampa’s three-goal edge at the end of the period with his second goal of the game.

Dustin Byfuglien cut the lead in half at 13:36 of the third on a booming slap shot only to see Stamkos ice the game on an empty-netter with 32 seconds left to record a hat trick.

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