Thrashers shut out by hot Bruins
By HOWARD ULMAN
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Bruins heated up in a hurry for the outdoor Winter Classic.
Byron Bitz began a three-goal surge
in the first 17 minutes and the Bruins beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-0
on Wednesday, gaining momentum for the game Friday at Fenway Park
against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Everyone was on board right from the
beginning, really focused,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “Everybody was
going every shift out there with a purpose.”
The Bruins avoided any distractions
from the NHL’s much-hyped annual New Year’s Day game by focusing on
correcting their recent problems. Despite winning three of their
previous four games, the Bruins hadn’t played a solid game from start
to finish recently.
So for coach Claude Julien, playing
an outstanding game wasn’t any more important because it’s the last one
before the Winter Classic.
“Our whole focus was about that we needed to find our game for the sake of finding our game,” he said.
The Bruins extended their winning
streak over the Thrashers to nine games and beat them for the second
time in eight days, handing them their sixth straight loss. They drove
goalie Ondrej Pavelec from the game in the first period both times.
Pavelec was lifted 10:52 into the
first game after allowing three goals in a 1:08 span in Boston’s 6-4
win. On Wednesday, he lasted 16:50 and left after Steve Begin’s first
goal in 30 games and third of the season made it 3-0 on the Bruins’
Johan Hedberg took over both times
and played very well Wednesday when he stopped 12 shots before Patrice
Bergeron scored his 11th goal of the season at 14:56 of the second
period, making it 4-0.
“I can’t see too many positives,”
Hedberg said. “The only thing you can take from it is you have to feel
like it’s a wakeup call for us as a team and we have to realize it’s
not fun. We’ve been in this situation the three years I’ve been here in
Atlanta. We have good stretches and we have terrible stretches and all
of a sudden the terrible stretch is too long and you’re out of the
Bergeron, the Bruins’ leading scorer with 30 points, was selected to the Canadian Olympic team Wednesday.
“It’s been the best (game) in a long time,” he said. “Everyone stuck with the system and it paid off.”
Tuukka Rask got his second shutout
of the season and blanked the team that was tied for second in goals
per game with 3.2. But he faced just 18 shots, the fewest allowed by
the Bruins this season.
“Less than 20 shots, no breakaways, no 3-on-2s,” he said. “I saw pretty much every shot.”
Rask is 10-3-2 as the backup to Tim
Thomas, who is expected to start Friday afternoon at Fenway, although
the forecast calls for morning rain that may taper off as the game
“I don’t know if the ice would hold
up with that,” Boston’s Michael Ryder said, “but I’m sure they’ve got
something figured out.”
Thomas could be selected to the U.S. Olympic team when it’s announced after the outdoor game.
In the previous two Winter Classics,
Pittsburgh beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout at Ralph Wilson Stadium in
2008 and Detroit beat Chicago at Wrigley Field in 2009.
The Bruins ran the risk of looking ahead to the 2010 contest.
“We were hoping that would happen,
but the reality is they played very well,” Atlanta coach John Anderson
said. “The first five or six minutes it was really tight and they had
that goal that went in off a deflection and we’re a very fragile team
On Wednesday, Bitz began the scoring
with his fourth goal of the season when he redirected Shawn Thornton’s
shot from the left boards past Pavelec.
Marco Sturm scored for the third
straight game 6 minutes later after Marc Savard’s hard shot from the
right faceoff circle hit the post with Chara and Sturm in front of the
crease and Sturm poked it in.
“Hopefully, I’m going to continue that outside, too,” said Sturm, who leads the Bruins with 13 goals.
Begin scored from the slot when a
shot by Derek Morris from the right point hit his left thigh and was
redirected past Pavelec. After a video review, the goal was allowed.
NOTES: Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk had
his scoring streak stopped at 10 games, matching his career high. …
Four of Atlanta’s losses during its streak were by one goal. … The
Bruins are 3-0 against the Thrashers this season with one meeting left.
Updated December 30, 2009
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