Some fight, no scoring punch
Thrashers’ Pavelec denies the Bruins
ATLANTA — At 5:01 of last night’s second period, when Matt Hunwick took on Evander Kane in a post-whistle scrap, it might have been the first time the Bruins pushed back against the Thrashers.
Kane, who once won the hearts of Bruins faithful by one-punching Matt Cooke to the ice, landed most of the blows. But Hunwick, with only one NHL fight to his name, showed guts standing up to Kane and connecting with some punches.
So while Hunwick retired to the dressing room for repairs to his jersey as well as his face (stitches above his left eye), the Bruins responded by playing their best hockey.
“The way we played in the second period, I thought we showed a lot of emotion,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who contributed to the middle-frame surliness with a bout against Eric Boulton. “Especially Hunny stepping up and taking it upon himself to try and get the guys going. There are guys in this room where that’s their job. I think they do a pretty good job of it. When someone like that shows that he’s that committed to winning, I think it sparks the team. Or it should.’’
By then, it was too late.
The Thrashers ran the Bruins out of the rink with three goals in the first period. Then late in the second, after Blake Wheeler’s goal made it 3-1, the Thrashers scored a life-sucking, power-play goal with 12.3 ticks remaining. In the third, the Thrashers rode Ondrej Pavelec (40 saves) to a 4-1 win before 12,085 fans — a very generous count — at Philips Arena.
“The things that you’re talking about before games aren’t happening,’’ Wheeler said. “I think that’s the frustrating part. The disappointing part is that some guys are on the same page. Some guys aren’t on the same page. It only takes one guy that’s not on the same page as the other four. It makes it tough. Until we get back to where we’re on the same page like we were at the beginning of the year, with all their chips in at the same time, it’s going to be a struggle.’’
Dustin Byfuglien, involved in all four Atlanta goals (one goal, three assists), launched the first-period teeth-kicking by rushing the puck down right wing. Mark Stuart tried to chase Byfuglien and slow down the widebody. But the forward-turned-defenseman wheeled around the net, and with Stuart still in pursuit — and out of position — Byfuglien spotted Anthony Stewart open at the other side. With Stuart having gone for a skate and nobody home in front, Stewart connected with Kane, who shoveled the puck into the net at 8:32 before Tuukka Rask could reach out his right pad.
Byfuglien doubled Atlanta’s lead less than four minutes later. After Johnny Oduya busted up Wheeler’s chance, Alexander Burmistrov sent a pass through Dennis Seidenberg for Byfuglien. After slipping behind Seidenberg, Byfuglien beat Rask blocker side at 12:22. The replay showed that Byfuglien was offside.
“The game didn’t necessarily play itself there, because there were a lot of things we needed to do better,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “It’s unfortunate. Even when I mentioned it to the linesman after the first period, he was a little sarcastic about it. We don’t yell at them. We just tell them so they can look at it. At one point, you’d just like them to say, ‘No problem, I’ll look at it.’ We’re bringing it to their attention. That’s all we’re doing. I didn’t like the way it was reacted upon. But more than anything else, it’s our game. We’re at a stage right now where it looks like we’re finding ways to lose more than we’re finding ways to win.’’
Byfuglien helped complete the three-goal outburst at 14:42. First, Byfuglien picked Brad Marchand’s pocket in the neutral zone, then absorbed a crunching hit from Johnny Boychuk while shuttling the puck forward. Jim Slater recovered the puck, got past Seidenberg, and beat Rask — again, under the blocker — to give the Thrashers a 3-0 lead.
The only resistance came in the second, with Hunwick and Kane, following some jousts, dropping the gloves after Rask had covered the puck. Kane scraped off Hunwick’s helmet, rendering him blind for part of the fight, and fed him some straight rights. But Hunwick, who took on Carolina’s Justin Williams in 2008-09, blasted Kane (the Atlanta forward wears a shield) with his own rights.
Then after Wheeler’s goal, the Bruins brought some big-time heat on Pavelec. But after Pavelec stood tall and Daniel Paille was sent off for boarding Burmistrov, Atlanta slammed the brakes on Boston’s rally with a power-play goal. Byfuglien heeled a one-timer, but Niclas Bergfors was in position to tip the puck blocker side past Rask at 19:47 of the second.
“The last three goals went through the same spot, underneath the blocker,’’ said Rask (22 saves). “That’s something I’ve got to look and fix. You save those, you give your team a chance to win. Today I didn’t.’’
Rask could have been better. Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, two-thirds of the No. 1 line, combined for zero shots. Zdeno Chara wasn’t his usual presence at either end of the rink.
Atlanta’s stars were their top performers. The Bruins’ best players were far from it.