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Thrashers 3, Bruins 2 (Atlanta wins shootout, 2-0)

Bruins shot down

Pavelec backstops Thrashers to victory

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 31, 2010

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ATLANTA — Strange game, no?

Swarm the goalie with 44 shots. Get scoring chances from all four lines. Establish the forecheck and cycle the puck down low consistently.

And for all that, the Bruins’ reward was a 3-2 shootout loss to the Thrashers before 17,624 at Philips Arena last night.

“More than anything, you scratch your head and ask yourself how you don’t get 2 points,’’ said Blake Wheeler, who scored a goal in perhaps his strongest game of the season. “Sometimes you play half as good and you win games, 4-0. That’s the way the game works.

“I don’t think you should read into it too much. I know our team isn’t. I know our team is playing really well.’’

In the shootout, Tim Stapleton, recalled from Chicago (AHL) yesterday when Nik Antropov was placed on injured reserve, beat Tim Thomas in the No. 1 slot. Second gunner Bryan Little also slipped the puck past Thomas.

At the other end, Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was electric in the second half of the game, stoned leadoff shooter Tyler Seguin, then turned back Wheeler to earn his first career shootout victory.

“With Ondrej in the net, we played pretty good,’’ said Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom. “He gives us a chance to win every night. We battled hard and that’s what’s most important.’’

A 1-point result was hardly the fate the Bruins deserved. On top of the 44 pucks they put on Pavelec, they had 28 attempts blocked and saw 20 more shots go wide. They retrieved pucks efficiently and didn’t allow the Thrashers to skate sustained shifts in their zone. In the offensive zone, the Bruins had multiple flurries on Pavelec, only to see the Atlanta netminder stuff each shot.

“I thought we played with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm,’’ said Boston captain Zdeno Chara. “We created a lot of chances. I thought we had plenty of scoring chances. We saw a goalie who was hot and made a lot of saves for them.

“On the other side, they got a couple breaks, especially that second power-play goal. You don’t see that too often. Just a soft dump-in and it gets through.

“It’s going to happen sometimes where you play well and you end up losing the game. We shouldn’t be feeling any bad feelings. We performed well. We worked hard. It just didn’t go in.’’

Pavelec didn’t finish the game the way he started, which was subpar. In the first period, Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins their first goal when his backhander dribbled through Pavelec. Fifty-five ticks into the second, Wheeler flew into the offensive zone and beat Pavelec with a far-side wrister.

But Pavelec, maybe the second-best goalie in the NHL this season behind Thomas, stopped all 18 shots in the third period, two more in overtime, and the two in the shootout.

“Their first goal probably wasn’t a great goal, but after that he was really solid,’’ said Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay. “He gave us a chance. He battled. We really got chased a little bit in the third period, but Pav was there for us when we needed him.’’

The Thrashers got both goals off Enstrom’s stick. In the first, after Marc Savard was whistled for slashing, Enstrom floated a shot from the left point that sailed through traffic and beat Thomas clean at 3:23 to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead. Thomas didn’t see the puck until it grazed off his equipment.

In the second, Enstrom struck again. The Bruins had a power play at 6:21 when Stapleton bowled over Thomas and was whistled for goaltender interference. But that power play was wiped out when Nathan Horton was called for tripping Brent Sopel at 7:38.

After the Thrashers killed off Stapleton’s penalty, Enstrom sailed another shot from the left point that beat Thomas at 9:21 to tie the game at 2-2. Andrew Ladd had set a screen on Thomas.

On Atlanta’s power play, Dustin Byfuglien is usually the designated blaster from the point. Byfuglien has one of the league’s heaviest shots, and is only too happy to hammer away whenever he sees an opening. He landed seven shots last night, had four others blocked, and went wide with one attempt.

In comparison, pucks move ever so slowly off Enstrom’s stick. The trick is that he angles his body to shield his release from a goalie’s vision. So no matter how harmless Enstrom’s shot appears to be, it’s often more challenging to read than Byfuglien’s grip-and-rip rocket.

“Enstrom’s really good at getting himself behind screens,’’ said Thomas. “On the first one, it happened to be our guy.

“I don’t know how many shots he attempted. But even the ones that went wide, I rarely saw them. After he scored the first one and the second one there, I was just butterflying even when I couldn’t see it, because I couldn’t find a way to find it.’’

Three games into this five-stop road trip, the Bruins have gotten 5 out of 6 points. In every game since the break, they’ve gotten better. Shame, then, they didn’t get the result they wanted last night.

“We did everything but produce enough,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “When you look at the scoresheet, we threw over 90 shots at the net.

“It’s a little disappointing that we didn’t come out with that extra point. But the effort was there tonight. That’s all you can do is build on that and bring it into the next game.’’

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