ATLANTA – Andrew Ladd called it a coincidence.
Since the Atlanta Thrashers named him captain, the team is 3-0 and it has delivered some resounding defeats to two of the best teams in the NHL.
The latest victim was Western Conference-leading Detroit, as the Thrashers handed the Red Wings their first loss in regulation in seven games and chased goalie Jimmy Howard from the net for the first time this season with a 5-1 victory on Wednesday at Philips Arena.
Ladd and Bryan Little each had a goal and an assist and goalie Ondrej Pavelec continued his hot play with 32 saves.
Ladd called Wednesday the Thrashers' best team game of the season.
"I think it should tell everyone here that we can play with anybody, first and foremost," said Ladd, who notched his second shorthanded goal of the season, which proved to be the game-winner. " We're doing a lot of little things we've been talking about. When it works, it becomes contagious and everyone wants to do it. Everyone buys in and I thought that's what we had tonight."
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay agreed that it was the Thrashers' best team game. In addition to two regulation wins over Washington, they also defeated Minnesota 5-1.
"I mean, we've played some good games, as we've talked about so many times, against some good teams," he said. "Tonight we did it for virtually the whole game. We did it with everybody and we had to kill some penalties and we fought through that."
Little, who registered his second two-point game in his last five, flashed the form that made him a 31-goal scorer to seasons ago with a blinding wrist shot that finished off a 2-on-1 in the second period. He also feathered a gorgeous saucer pass to Anthony Stewart for a power play goal earlier in the period.
Pavelec, among the League leaders in both goals-against average and save percentage, has not allowed more than two goals in five straight starts and in his last three he has yielded a total of two goals. The three-game winning streak is Atlanta's longest of the season. In his last four games, Pavelec has stopped 121 of 125 shots (a .968 save percentage).
Howard, who lost for just the second time in regulation in his last 29 regular season games dating to 2009-10, was pulled for the first time this season. Joey MacDonald replaced him to start the third period.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he could see this game coming, despite the fact that his team was 5-0-1 in its last six entering the match.
"I hope we don't just forget this game," he said. "The reality is you need reminders in life. We all get it and we got a reminder tonight how hard the League is and how much structure you have to play with and how good you have to be to be successful."
The Thrashers' fourth line opened the scoring off the cycle, with Jim Slater playing the puck behind the net to Eric Boulton, who sent a crisp pass into the slot where Chris Thorburn one-timed it home at 2:39 of the first period.
With Ron Hainsey in the penalty box for tripping Patrick Eaves, Rich Peverley stole the puck from Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit's zone and sent a pass from high on the right side to a streaking Ladd, who converted it past Howard at 11:59 of the first. It was his eighth, tying him for the team lead with Dustin Byfuglien.
Nineteen seconds after Ladd's goal, the Red Wings struck. Todd Bertuzzi one-timed Mike Modano's pass from the right circle high past the glove of Pavelec at 12:18.
Stewart made it 3-1 off of Little's pass. Johnny Oduya kept the puck in at the point and sent it down low to Little below the left faceoff dot. Detroit's Brad Stuart stuck out his right leg to try and block the passing lane but Little saucered it perfectly to Stewart who punched it into a wide open net at 1:50 of the second.
Little called his own number on a 2-on-1 at 16:25 of the second, beating Howard high to the glove side.
Byfuglien added his League-leading eighth goal by a defenseman on a 4-on-3 to make it 5-1 at 14:19 of the third for Atlanta.