OTTAWA, Ontario -- The wins are piling up, and the Thrashers are moving up.
Atlanta defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on Monday night on Bryan Little’s overtime goal, giving the Thrashers their 10th win in the past 12 games.
The impressive roll is one thing. With the victory, the Thrashers (17-11-3, 37 points) jumped Boston and Tampa Bay for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They also stand just two points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington with a game in hand on the Capitals.
Little, who had two goals in the game, scored unassisted on a breakaway 1:09 into the four-on-four period for the Thrashers’ fifth overtime win of the season. He took advantage of a Senators’ turnover.
“I wasn’t sure how much time I had,” Little said. “I saw the goalie cheating. He was already going down so I threw it upstairs.”
Little came up with his ninth goal, and third in the past three games. He had 13 goals last season, a year removed from a 31-goal campaign.
Jim Slater and Little scored first-period goals as the Thrashers built a 2-0 lead. Dustin Byfuglien scored in the second period for his 11th goal of the season for a three-goal lead -- establishing a franchise record for most goals in a season by a defenseman. Byfuglien needed only 31 games to do it.
The Thrashers next blew its big lead, enabling the Senators to tie the game. Ottawa's Jason Spezza capped the run and tied the game when he converted a penalty shot with 12:37 remaining in the third period. Spezza was on a breakaway when Zach Bogosian tied him up, drawing the call.
“It was definitely a penalty shot,” Bogosian said. “He grabbed my stick and I had to do something about it. … I was going for the puck and he went to protect it and locked onto my stick.”
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay did not have a problem with Bogosian's actions on the play. He pointed a finger at the forwards.
“We had a pinching defenseman and no forward willing to back him up,” Ramsay said. “They all went forward. Johnny Oduya makes a pinch and somebody has to back him up. It’s simple.”
The Thrashers, with eight points in December, won their second consecutive game on the road. During their recent run of success, the Thrashers are 4-1 away from home. The current road trip ends on Wednesday night in Tampa Bay.
Slater opened the scoring, getting credit for a tip on Eric Boulton’s spin and shot move. With the goal, at the 9:36 mark of the first period, the Thrashers had scored first in 14 of the past 18 games.
Little gave the Thrashers a 2-0 lead with 2:42 left in the opening period, and Byfuglien, the Thrashers’ leading scorer, had a big hand in the goal. Byfuglien played keep-away from the Senators in the Thrashers' offensive zone. He took the puck down the left side, around the net, up the right side and back toward the middle, before sliding a pass to Chris Thorburn. The forward fired a shot that bounced off the pad of Senators goaltender Brian Elliott, and Little was there for the rebound.
Byfuglien gave the Thrashers a 3-0 lead with 2:22 remaining in the second period. Rich Peverley jammed a puck into the pads of Elliott and, when the puck finally surfaced, the big defenseman knocked it into the net.
Daniel Alfredsson got the Senators on the board 53 seconds later, knocking a rebound past Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Chris Neil jammed in a rebound 5:38 into the third period to pull the Senators within a goal before Spezza tied it.
“They were afraid the fans were losing interest at 3-0 so they decided to let them back in it by giving them a couple,” Ramsay said, tongue in cheek. “It worked very well. We managed to let them back in it.”
Pavelec stopped 27 of 30 shots for his 10th win of the season. In last 12 starts Pavelec is 9-3. He has stopped 364 of 383 shots during the run, a .950 save percentage.
“That’s hockey but we should have been better there when it was 3-0,” Pavelec said. “We were better in overtime. We showed that we wanted the two points more than them.”
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