- P.J. Axelsson scored the game-winning goal with 7:02 remaining to help his Boston Bruins edge the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Tuesday night. Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart scored Boston's other goals, and Tim Thomas
made 22 saves between the pipes. With the win, the Bruins moved to within four points of the Thrashers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and have now won for the fourth time in six games.
Axelsson was the difference again in tonight's game. Against the Capitals on Monday night, the defensive specialist shut down rookie sensation Alexander Ovechkin to help lead the Bruins to victory. On Tuesday, it was his offense that sparked the team.
Boston had five power play opportunities in the final period to move ahead of the Thrashers, including two with the two-man advantage, but failed to convert. However, P.J. Axelsson waited until the teams were even strength to net his first game-winning goal of the season a minute after the power play ended.
Setting up the play, Brad Isbister worked hard in the Atlanta corner to get the puck to Wayne Primeau behind the net. Primeau laid the puck out front for a streaking Axelsson who one-timed into the back of the net at 12:58 of the third period. The game-winning helper was Isbister's 200th career NHL point.
"Obviously, we wanted to score on the power play," said Axelsson. "We had a lot of chances to score. We just missed. It was nice to see we didn't slow down.
"We're doing a lot of things a lot smarter nowadays. We're not trying to beat guys one-on-one or one-on-two, we just chip it in and try to get it back. We're playing a lot easier and smarter hockey."
The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 15:31 of the first period on a lucky bounce. Patrice Bergeron
stole the puck in his defensive zone and brought it all the way down to the Atlanta net on a partial breakaway. Bergeron backhanded the puck over the net, but when it hit the glass behind the goal, it came right back out front. Fortunately for Boston, Marco Sturm was there to bang in the loose puck past Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen for his eighteenth goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Atlanta tied it on a redirected shot from the blue line. Scott Mellanby picked up his sixth of year, tipping a Jaroslav Modry slap shot from the point.
1:25 later, Atlanta took a 2-1 lead on a Marc Savard
goal. With virtually no angle, he banked it off Thomas and into the net for the go-ahead goal, his 21st of the season.
The Bruins got one back midway through the second period to make it 2-2 at 11:28. Brad Stuart picked up a loose puck from the right circle and scored on a wrist shot that deflected off an Atlanta defenseman for his seventh of the season. Patrice Bergeron
and Sergei Samsonov were each credited with assists.
"I think the guys are getting a better understanding of how we need to play in order to give ourselves the chance to be successful against an opponent on any night," said Coach Mike Sullivan. "(Atlanta) is a team that has a real dynamic offense and if you get in that chance for chance game with them, they can burn you pretty good, so I thought our guys did a real good job."
The Bruins return home to face the Washington Capitals on Thursday at 7:00 p.m., where the Black ‘N' Gold will look to make it three in a row.