THRASHERS 5, BRUINS 4
Bruins burned in OT
Kovalchuk scores winner
ATLANTA -- During the 2000-01 season, just the second for the Atlanta franchise, the Bruins lost to the Thrashers four times and missed out on the playoffs to Carolina by a point. Presto, a rivalry was born.
In the eight meetings over the next two years, the Bruins were dominant -- earning a 6-1-0-1 record. Last night, though, the upstart Thrashers gave the Bruins more than they could handle as they carved out a 5-4 overtime victory at Philips Arena.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a four-on-three power play with 1:18 remaining in the extra session, giving the Bruins their first loss in five games.
Boston played well at times, particularly on the power play, in which it converted on three of six opportunities, but coach Mike Sullivan said the Bruins' effort level was below the standards they have set.
"We've had success a lot this year and it stems from our energy and our effort," said Sullivan. "When we skate and pursue the puck, we're an effective team, and when we don't move our feet out there and we don't force the issue, we can be an average team. I thought tonight we had an opportunity to get 2 points but it wasn't one of our better efforts."
It wasn't a total disappointment for the Bruins, however. They have now taken at least a point in each of their last 10 games overall (6-0-1-3) and each of their last 10 road contests (7-0-1-2).
Boston started strong, scoring on its first two shots. Joe Thornton beat Atlanta forward Jean-Pierre Vigier on a faceoff in the left circle in the Thrashers' zone. The puck went back to Jeff Jillson at the left point and he wristed a shot past goalie Pasi Nurminen at 1:42 for his fourth goal of the season. Marty Lapointe's power-play goal at 7:30 made it a two-goal lead. But the Thrashers erased it during a 2:35 span. At 16:19, Ronald Petrovicky muscled the puck into the crease, beating Felix Potvin. At 18:54, Jeff Cowan made it a 2-2 game. Defenseman Andy Sutton started the play when he lifted the puck high, sending it out of the Atlanta zone. At the Boston blue line, Nick Boynton tried to corral the bouncing puck but couldn't control it, and it went to Petrovicky. Petrovicky dished a backhanded pass to Cowan in the slot and he fired it past Potvin.
"I tried to knock it down and play it but I should've just hit it into the neutral zone," said Boynton, ruefully. "I did a lot tonight. I think I knocked the first one in. I did a lot. I was on fire."
Sullivan said his team simply didn't do enough with the lead.
"We got up two goals early and it was an opportunity for us to really energize our team and I thought we took a sigh of relief and didn't keep our edge, and they got two goals to get back in the game," said Sullivan. "We did some good things out there, our power play was terrific. Our penalty kill for most of the night was pretty solid. The goal in overtime, they made a good play and he made a great shot."
The Bruins went back on top in the second on Glen Murray's power-play goal at 2:47. Atlanta pulled even again at 12:04 when Slava Kozlov scored from the top of the crease. Boston tallied its third on the man advantage at 14:16. This time it was Brian Rolston, who took a pass from Sergei Samsonov and one-timed a slapper from high between the circles past Nurminen to make it 4-3.
The Bruins were tagged for too many men on the ice early in the third period, leading to the Thrashers tying the game for the third time. With two seconds left on the man advantage, Serge Aubin flipped a shot over Potvin from in front and it was deadlocked at 4-4.
And Kovalchuk ended it with a one-timer from the left circle.
"We came out too quick and ended up thinking we were going to coast through the game," said Mike Knuble. "I give them credit, they evened it up before the end of the period. It seemed like whenever we got one, they got one, and vice versa. You could kind of see it was going to head to overtime and I think everybody had a gut feeling it was going to get settled in overtime, somebody would score whether it was them or us.
"They did an excellent job of not going in the tank in the first when we jumped out. Their goaltender, I'm sure it could've been frustrating for him giving up two goals on two shots but he rebounded nicely. We learned that when we go up, 2-0, in the first 10 minutes, there's still 50 minutes of hockey left to play. Just because those went in easily doesn't mean the rest of the game is going to be easy. We still claimed a point but, hopefully, we can learn from it."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.