ATLANTA — Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Johnny Oduya didn’t hesitate to point out his team’s biggest flaw after a deflating 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Philips Arena Thursday night.
“We just need better effort, and that’s pretty much what it is,” he said.
One day after allowing 55 shots to the Florida Panthers, the Thrashers allowed 42 to the Blue Jackets in a game that could have been much more lopsided were it not for the play of goalie Ondrej Pavelec (39 saves).
“You can’t ask much more from our goalies the last few nights,” forward Jim Slater said. “[Chris Mason] gave us the win last night and Pavey played the best he could tonight and we just couldn’t help him out in the offensive zone.”
It was the first time this season the Thrashers were shut out, who came into the game second in the NHL in scoring as Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon earned his second straight shutout.
For all their offensive ineptitude, it was defensive turnovers and poor positioning that plagued the Thrashers all evening and both directly resulted in Columbus’ first goal. After turning the puck over, Blue Jackets’ captain Rick Nash started behind the net and put a shot on net that Jakub Voracek tipped to Derek Brassard, who buried it from a sharp angle past Pavalec for his fifth goal of the season.
But in Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay’s eyes, that goal should have never happened.
“Our d-zone coverage on the first goal was just sloppy,” Ramsay said. “We had our sticks up and we weren’t moving out feet and we have to do a better job of starting and stopping in the defensive zone. We looked tired.
“Individually, we aren’t winning enough battles,” he continued. “We have to have everybody involved and you have to win battles at both ends of the rink if you’re going to compete in the National Hockey League.”
The Thrashers know they need to cut down on the amount of shots they allow, and that starts with possession the puck in the offensive zone.
“It’s tough for teams to shoot at you when you have the puck and you can dictate the play a little more,” Oduya said. “Right now we need to find a way to get our enthusiasm and our speed back.”
Columbus extended the lead to 2-0 at 10:14 of the third period when Mark Methot blasted a point shot over Pavelec. R.J. Umberger completed the scoring with an empty netter with 1:26 left.
And for the second time this season, the Thrashers set a record for lack of attendance, with only 8,461 fans in the arena.
“Obviously it would be nice to play in front of a big crowd,” Slater said. “But once you get moving you cant be worried about what’s going on on the other side of the glass, you have to stay focused on your job.”
“You have to create your own atmosphere,” Ramsay added. “It’s up to us to create an atmosphere by playing in the offensive zone.”
The Thrashers will be back to practice Friday before they welcome the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago to town on Saturday.