Boston, MA - With just 2:41 left to play, Bruins forward Marco Sturm scored the game-winning goal to edge the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 at the TD Banknorth Garden on Thursday night. Andrew Raycroft made 20 saves, while Tom Fitzgerald and Glen Murray scored the other goals. The win helped the B's snap a three-game losing streak and put them just four points shy of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"I was happy for our guys because I know how hard they worked tonight," said Head Coach Mike Sullivan. "Obviously, our powerplay had an opportunity to be the difference tonight and it was."
From the point, Brian Leetch sent a slap shot in on net that was saved by Atlanta's netminder Kari Lehtonen. Leetch went after the rebound, in the corner, and quickly threw the puck out front where it was redirected off Sturm's skate and into the net. After short review, Sturm was credited with a powerplay goal.
"We didn't get any breaks last night and I thought we should of won that game and we didn't," said Sturm. "Tonight we did and I was happy we got the two points tonight.
"We have to beat these teams in the playoff hunt with us. It's going to be a big battle and there will be a lot of grinding going on with the number of games, but we got a good start so hopefully we can keep it going."
Kovalchuk knotted the score back at two apiece for the Thrashers when he quickly launched a Marian Hossa pass over Raycroft's glove hand from the left circle at 7:19 of the third period.
Kovalchuk's goal didn't seem to kill Boston's momentum as they continued to dominate play. Greg De Vries was whistled off for hooking at 16:37 and the penalty set the stage for Sturm's tally just 42 seconds later.
After a scoreless first period, Murray scored from in front on a Wayne Primeau pass just over four minutes into the second session. Lehtonen made three consecutive saves before Murray finally knocked one home on four-on-four play. Brad Stuart picked up the other assist on Murray's 18th tally of the year.
Atlanta got it back though, just two minutes later on the powerplay. Peter Bondra banged home an Ilya Kovalchuk blast through Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft's legs, his 16th of the year.
The Bruins turned up the heat in the last half of the second period and barraged Lehtonen with 13 shots.
At 8:05, they took back their lead on a strong Fitzgerald second effort. From the slot, Fitzgerald backhanded a shot that Lehtonen saved, but quickly followed up the rebound for the score.
"My old man once told me, ‘It's not hard to work hard. It's hard to go out and score goals,'" said Fitzgerald. "I've always prided myself on hard work and I've gotten scoring chances in past years by working hard. My job right now for this team is to go out and try to give energy, effort, and finish checks. Tonight I got a nice bounce."
Andrew Raycroft made his first start tonight since January 12. Raycroft came up big for the Bruins and made some key saves at important times of the game and helped secure the win.
"It was nice to get in there," said Raycroft. "It gave me a chance to get in a game and get my legs back under me. It was fun."
Prior to dropping the puck, the Bruins made a tribute to P.J. Axelsson for coming back to Boston with a gold medal after his Team Sweden defeated Finland in the gold medal game. Axelsson was not able to play due to straining his knee Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It's much easier to play in the Olympics the second time around," said Axelsson. "The experience was awesome. It was an old rivalry (Finland) that I think the media pumps up more than anything. They have some real good players and we have a lot of respect for each other. It was a well played game and we had a little bit more luck that day."