ATLANTA — It was a night the Atlanta Thrashers can’t wait to forget. And they have no one to blame but themselves.
“We were embarrassed, but there’s another day,” Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec said after a 9-3 rout by the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night. “We gave it to them and we paid a price. Everything went wrong.”
Three Maple Leafs — Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and former Thrasher Clarke MacArthur — scored two goals to power Toronto and five goals came on the power-play. Kris Versteeg, Phil Kessel and Colby Armstrong also added goals for Toronto.
Simply put, the Thrashers undoing came because of the inability to kill penalties. Forward Ben Eager received four minutes of penalties — two for roughing and two for cross-checking — in the first period and saw Toronto score one goal.
“Once it got to 5-1, things kind of got away on the penalty kill,” Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “We weren’t able to do the job, and that’s disappointing because our PK has been really good for the better part of two months.”
In the second, Eager took a five minute match penalty for an attempt to injure Armstrong, and that led to four more power play goals.
“We don’t condone anything,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said of Eager’s penalty trouble. “We want our players to play hard. We want them to play physical with body checks and fight for the puck. We can’t condone that.”
Toby Enstrom gave Atlanta an early lead, and then saw Toronto score nine unanswered goals. In the second period alone, the Leafs scored six times and all within an eight minute span.
The period even featured three goaltender changes, as Pavelec was pulled in favor of Chris Mason before Mason himself got pulled in the period after allowing three goals on four shots. Mason also played the final 20 minutes.
“We just have to focus in practice and move on,” Pavelec said. “This is tough, but we have to fight through it.”
To Atlanta’s credit, they continued to play hard and scored two goals in the third. Patrice Cormier scored in first NHL goal and Andrew Ladd scored to cut the deficit to 9-3.
“You wish that goal could’ve come at a better time,” Ramsay said. “But you have to give him credit for not over-celebrating his goal.”
The Thrashers next play Sunday when they travel to Raleigh, N.C., for a Sunday matinee with Carolina.