Another early deficit, another loss for Thrashers

It has become a pattern and it is a disturbing one.

Thrashers coach John Anderson goes so far as to call it an embarrassment.

The Thrashers fell behind early in yet another game, this time by two goals -- twice -- en route to a 4-3 overtime loss to division rival Tampa Bay Sunday at Philips Arena. The Thrashers forced overtime with three third-period goals to salvage a point.

But it was the first two periods that were cause for concern.

“I think the term should be ‘embarrassed' after the first two periods,” Anderson said. “That’s more the term that comes to mind. You get dejected because it’s like you wasted two periods. It’s a game that we had to have. It was a must-win for us. We talked about this. It didn’t look like it was a must-win.”

Steve Stamkos scored the game-winner in overtime, converting a pass from Martin St. Louis after a Thrashers turnover. St. Louis took control of the puck while Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey were caught behind the net. St. Louis took the puck to the side of the net and passed across the goal mouth to Stamkos, who banged in his 15th goal of the season.

“There is nothing you can say,” Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said. “He had the puck behind the net. They fight and they kept the puck and they scored a goal. I thought he was going to shoot it, but he made a great pass.”

Pavelec stopped 36 of 40 shots and was helped by a little iron.Tampa Bay hit the goal posts with four shots. So it could have been worse.

“Pavs deserves 98 percent of the credit for the point we did get,” Hainsey said. “He kept it to within two or one [goals] instead of five or six, which it easily could have been.”

After a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead on second-period goals by Stephane Veilleux and Ryan Malone.

The Thrashers (10-7-3) are now 3-7-3 when their opponent scores first. They are also 1-7-3 when trailing after two periods.

“What can I tell you?” Anderson said of another early deficit. “You saw it. Has it changed? No. We’ve tried different things. At some point, our guys have to take it on their shoulders, on themselves, and say we have to get going in the first period. Or we are just going to be chasing all year.”

The Thrashers did come charging back. Tobias Enstrom made it 2-1 with his third goal of the season at the 5:29 mark of the third period, beating Tampa Bay goaltender Antero Niittymaki.

Tampa Bay's Kurtis Foster answered four minutes later with a power-play goal to put the Lightning up by two goals again. His goal came with nine seconds remaining in an interference penalty to Todd White. Pavelec lost his stick on the play.

But there, the Thrashers dug in. With less than five minutes to play, Slava Kozlov scored and less than two minutes later, Evander Kane scored to tie the game.

The flurry salvaged the one point in the standings, after Stamkos’ game-winner.

“That’s the only good thing about it,” Bogosian said. “We put ourselves in a hole again. We just can’t do that.”

Playing their third game in four days, the Thrashers ended a five-game homestand with a 2-1-2 record, the three losses coming  in the last three games. Eight of the Thrashers’ 10 losses this season have been by one goal.

Niittymaki, who stopped 28 of 31 shots, improved to 14-0 lifetime against the Thrashers.

With a 4-5-2 home record, the Thrashers (23 points) fell two points behind the second-place Tampa Bay (9-5-7, 25 points) in the Southeast Division. The Thrashers also fell to ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a point behind Boston.

“Too many rushes against, too many chances to good players, too many pucks on our net, too much time in our zone,” Hainsey said of the issues against Tampa Bay. “When you do that, eventually bad things are going to happen.”

Bad things are happening to the Thrashers, early and often.

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