ATLANTA (AP) -- Byron Dafoe needed this one.
The Atlanta goaltender won for the first time in 10 months, stopping 35
shots to lead the Thrashers to a 6-2 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on
Marc Savard scored two more goals for the Thrashers, while Slava Kozlov had
a goal and three assists to make things easy for Dafoe.
"This is huge for me personally," said Dafoe, who won for the first time
since a 4-2 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 7. "It's been a long time."
Dafoe, a No. 1 goalie much of his career, missed the final 25 games last
season with a hernia. He came into this season as the backup to Pasi Nurminen.
It was only the fourth game of the season for Dafoe, who had gone 20 days
since his last appearance.
"This year has been tough," he admitted. "But the bottom line is, I'm a
team player. I'll do what I can to help the team win. I'm a good soldier. If
that means sitting on the bench, I will."
Dafoe made several dazzling saves, sprawling on his stomach to deny Joffrey
Lupul late in the second period. Petr Sykora tried to stuff in the rebound, but
the puck caught the post.
First-place Atlanta won for just the second time in six games but stretched
its Southeast Division lead to three points over Tampa Bay.
Savard has scored six goals in six games since recovering much sooner than
expected from ankle surgery. J.P. Vigier scored for the fourth game in a row,
his third-period goal knocking out struggling Mighty Ducks goalie
Anaheim, the defending Western Conference champion, lost its third in a row
and has one win in the last nine games. Giguere has gone from playoff hero to a
very beatable goalie, his record dropping to 4-12-2.
After giving up a soft goal to Vigier that made it 5-1, Giguere was replaced
by Martin Gerber. It didn't really matter.
"At some point, we need to realize the season is on the line," Giguere
said. "It's nothing to be shocked about. It's just not working. This game is
very simple. It's all 20 of us."
Lupul was about the only one who showed up on this night. He got off six
shots, scoring both Anaheim goals. The Mighty Ducks haven't won on the road
since Oct. 29 at Washington, a stretch of 10 games.
"We need some home cooking," coach Mike Babcock said.
Savard had the first two Atlanta goals. He wasn't even supposed to be on the
ice, having been projected to miss eight to 10 weeks after hurting his ankle
Savard returned after only three weeks and hasn't missed a beat. He now has
11 goals in just 18 games.
"To come back a month early is basically unheard of," coach Bob Hartley
said. "It was great for us to get Savvy back."
Savard was more interested in talking about the defense. The Thrashers had
given up 20 goals in their last five games, reverting to the bad habits that
have plagued the team through most of its existence.
"We put in a great effort defensively," Savard said. "That's all we have
to do here. We have guys who can put the puck away."
Lupul beat Dafoe with a shot through the legs at 14:25 of the second period,
cutting the Thrashers' lead to 2-1.
The comeback was short-lived. Jeff Cowan scored just 28 seconds later after
taking a shot to the midsection while trying to set up in front of the net for
deflection. Cowan scooped up his own rebound, flipping the puck past a helpless
Kozlov made a wonderful cross-ice pass to set up Serge Aubin for a 4-1 lead
at 16:50 of the second.