The Thrashers' new look is appealing.
They got three goals from players who joined the team in the past four weeks, including one each from two players making their Thrashers debut, en route to a 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night at Philips Arena.
The win was the second consecutive for the surging Thrashers, who are 4-0-2 in the past six games. It was the first time they’ve won back-to-back games in regulation since Jan. 26 and 28.
Improving to 28-24-10 (66 points) the Thrashers are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. They moved into a three-way tie for the eighth spot, with Montreal and the New York Rangers. The Canadiens played a late game at San Jose. The win also moves the Thrashers within a point of seventh-place Boston and three points behind sixth-place Philadelphia.
The Thrashers scored four times in the opening period. They got a goal from Clarke MacArthur, playing his first game since he was acquired from Buffalo at Wednesday’s trade deadline. They got a goal from Niclas Bergfors, his fourth in seven games since he was acquired before the Olympic break. And they also got goals from Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov in the first, falling one goal shy of the most goals scored in a period this season (the most: five in the third period at Carolina on Nov. 27). Antropov added a power-play goal in the second period, his 17th of the season.
“It’s always nice to get one early,” MacArthur said. “I had a lot of nerves tonight. It will get better from here. I want to build my confidence every game as we go here and make a push for the playoffs. That’s a big part of what these guys are trying to do here, and I just want to help out.”
Evgeny Artyukhin, making his debut after he was acquired from Anaheim on Monday, scored an unassisted goal in the second period, showing his speed on a breakaway.
“I’ve always worked on my skating,” Artyukhin said. “I just try to keep going. Maybe the guy was surprised by how fast I can go.”
The Thrashers had not won a game by more than two goals since Jan. 12 (6-1 win over Ottawa), a span of 17 games.
Johan Hedberg had 33 saves, including 30 in the first two periods. Making his ninth start in the past 12 games he improved to 6-1-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
“From good honest hard work you are going to get rewarded; you are going to get bounces; you are going to build momentum,” said Hedberg, who is 16-9-5 on the season. “There are no shortcuts. We can’t come out next game and think we are going to get off to a fast start just because we scored six goals. We have to keep doing the little things we’ve been doing all the time, and we’ll be successful.”
Bergfors opened the scoring at the 5:04 mark of the opening period as he was the recipient of set-up passes from Bryan Little and Antropov and beat Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Antropov next converted a pass from Little at the 8:51 mark for his 16th goal of the season. Just 25 seconds later, MacArthur scored on a pass from Afinogenov, who dug the puck out of the corner. His goal made the lead 3-0 and chased Roloson in favor of Martin Biron.
At the 14:25 mark, Afinogenov scored his 20th goal of the season to give the Thrashers an insurmountable lead.
Antropov’s second-period power-play goal put the Thrashers up 5-1 before Artyukhin’s goal make it a five-goal lead. The top-line center has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the past six games.
The Islanders got two power-play goals, one by Mark Streit in the first period and one by Rob Schremp in the third period. Tim Jackman added a third-period goal to make the game a little closer.
The Thrashers had an 0-2-1 mark against the Islanders this season, with their only point coming in a shootout loss.
“I think we feel good about ourselves,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “I don’t know if it’s momentum, a confidence or a little bit of air. We’ve got a lot of games coming up. We’ve got to stay on this roll of good feeling, and the playoffs will be right there.”
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