SUNRISE, Fla. – It really wasn’t even a shot on goal.
But it was enough.
Florida’s Gregory Campbell scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory over the Thrashers Monday at the BankAtlantic Center.
With the win, Florida (21-20-8, 50 points) moved one point in front of the Thrashers in the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference standings.
The Thrashers put forth a solid effort but could get nothing past Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
“Effort. Every time we have effort but we have no points,” a frustrated Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk said.
The Panthers’ lone goal came in the second period. Campbell took control of the puck and circled around in the Thrashers zone. With nowhere else to go he slid the puck on net. Thrashers defensemen Boris Valabik and Anssi Salmela had Florida’s Rostislav Olesz sandwiched in front of goaltender Johan Hedberg. The screen was enough for the puck to find its way through to the back of the net with 12:42 left in the period.
“By the time I saw it, it was too late,” Hedberg said.
The Panthers killed off a 6-on-4 power play in the final 1:19 after a tripping penalty and the Thrashers pulled Hedberg. Still they could not beat Vokoun. He stopped all 27 shots he faced.
“We poke check a guy and the puck goes in our own net,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said of the game-winner. “I don’t know how many goals we’ve scored on ourselves [this season]. It’s astronomical.
“I’m not faulting Hedberg, but there have been a lot of bad bounces going against us the last month and a half.”
The Thrashers (21-20-7, 49 points) are not 3-2-1 in six games since snapping a nine-game winless streak. Atlanta is tied for 12th, with Philadelphia, in the Eastern Conference. They are two points out of the eighth spot.
"They perfected their game plan." Hedberg said of the Panthers. "When they got up 1-0 they made no mistakes whatsoever. You have to give them credit for playing an unbelievable strong defensive game."
As he has much of the season, Anderson wanted to see his team take more shots on goal, especially against a team last in the NHL in shots allowed.
“We needed a little more traffic,” Anderson said. “Vokoun was excellent. If you can’t see it, you can’t stop it. We weren’t getting enough traffic.What happens is, it’s what comes first: the chicken or the egg. If you have someone in front you don’t shoot it. Then they don’t go to the front and now we shoot it. We have to get on the same page.”
Hedberg, who has started all four games against the Panthers this season, took the loss to fall to 2-2 against Florida this season. He allowed just the one goal on 24 shots.
“We had a lot of chances, but their goalie played great,” defenseman Pavel Kubina said. “We just couldn’t get anything behind him.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Thrashers, who host Toronto today. Three of the next four games are at home.
"We have to get right back on the horse," Anderson said. "It's spilled milk now. [Tuesday] is almost a good thing to have because if we win we won't feel so sorry for ourselves."
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