The Ottawa Senators travelled to Atlanta to face a Thrasher club desperate for a win to remain in the playoff race. Ottawa is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, and look to get back on the winning track.
Craig Anderson was called on early to make a couple of good saves against first Blake Wheeler and then Evander Kane in the first two minutes. It was Ottawa who got on the board first as Colin Greening knocked down a point shot and slid his first NHL goal past Chris Mason. The rest of the first period was pretty bland, and the Greening goal held up as the only one of the period.
The second period was largely the same as the first. A broken stick for Erik Karlsson on the Sens’ power play resulted in a shift where the Thrashers had at least 3 quality scoring chances shorthanded. The period was dominated by the Thrashers, and Anderson was the only reason the Senators were clinging to a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes. An entertaining scrap between Francis Lessard and Eric Boulton was the highlight of the period for the Senators.
Ottawa needed a spark in the third to sway the momentum, and that was provided in the form of a Bobby Butler snapshot that beat Mason over the glove hand to give Ottawa a 2 goal cushion. Dustin Byfuglien provided the home team with some hope as his blast from the point went through traffic in front of the net and eluded Anderson to make the score 2-1. Atlanta had about 13 minutes to try to get the equalizer. Their task was made more difficult when Derek Smith fired a shot from the point that was deflected in by Nick Foligno. For Smith it was his first NHL point. A late flurry by the Thrashers fell short as they could not beat Anderson again. Final score, Ottawa 3, Atlanta 1.
THE UP SIDE
The AHL Callups continue to make the most of their chances. Colin Greening and Derek Smith are the latest in the line of contributors from the minors to make an impact.
Craig Anderson – We are quickly running out of adjectives for his stellar play. Another 40+ save performance for the new toast of the town.
Chris Phillips had his best game in some time, and had a minute-long battle with Anthony Stewart and Dustin Byfuglien in front of the Ottawa net to preserve the victory.
THE DOWN SIDE
Jason Spezza is skating well, but seems to be trying to do too much by himself. He needs to show some trust in his rookie linemates and use them more to get plays set up. Other than that, his game is progressing nicely, and his faceoff excellence continues to impress.
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THE THREE STARS
3rd Star – Chris Phillips, D, OTT - Played a team high 23:05, recorded an assist and his battles with Stewart and Byfuglien in the last minute were idicative of what we have come to expect from him in previous seasons.
2nd Star- Colin Greening, F, OTT- Played a season high 18:01, scoring his first NHL goal and finishing with a +2 rating, playing on the top line with Spezza and Butler.
1st Star – Craig Anderson, G, OTT – No doubt about it. Based on the first two minutes alone, he could have had this honor. With 43 saves, he improved on his already ridiculous save percentage.
With attendance issues (this game had an announce attendance of 10,461) the Thrashers are a prime candidate to be moved. I don’t know how it is possible that a city like Winnipeg, even with a smaller (16,000 seat) arena could not be a better location for the NHL to call home. The MTS Centre would be sold out every night, and revenue shouldn’t be a problem in such a gate-driven league. It is a shame that the Southern US states seem to have difficulty filling rinks, but why keep teams there if they are not supported. There are a number of Canadian cities who would be a preferential landing spot that would enhance the strength of the product league-wide and increase revenues. Three-quarters empty buildings around the league does not enhance the perception of the NHL.