Skip to Main Content

Byfuglien's OT rush results in Thrashers' win

by John Manasso
ATLANTA -- Maybe Jeremy Roenick would like to reconsider.

After the Thrashers' Dustin Byfuglien scored a highlight-reel goal in overtime, going from end to end and beating Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller with a wrist shot for a 4-3 victory on Friday at Philips Arena, the move from forward to defense is starting to look like a stroke of genius on the part of Thrashers' management.

During training camp, Roenick, the former All-Star turned analyst, said on his radio show that moving Byfuglien to defense was "maybe the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life."

Yet Byfuglien entered the day ranked ninth in the NHL in points and on Friday he added an assist to the goal, giving him 4 goals and 5 assists in 10 games.

"He's fun to watch," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. "He has tremendous hands and an incredible compete level, which is what we need to have from all of our team, is that compete level. As a coach, it's sometimes hard to watch because he tends to get run around a little bit, but his strength down low, his battle down low. Again, (associate coach) John Torchetti was talking a lot about it -- that flip he had late in the game when we absolutely needed to clear the zone and he just flipped one up way in the air and you thank heavens."

Byfuglien, who scored 11 goals in the playoffs last season as a wing in helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup, was asked to evaluate how he thinks the move is going.

"Yeah, so far it's been going well," he said. "It's just composure and keeping myself in a defensive frame of mind. I'm not doing too much and trying to get out of my element. I worry about my (defensive) zone first."

The goal, which came with 29 seconds left in overtime, helped Atlanta win its second straight. The Thrashers (5-4-1) trailed 2-0 at first intermission, battled back to take a 3-2 lead but coughed up the tying goal with 7.3 seconds left.

Derek Roy scored from along the goal line on the left side with Miller pulled, as Atlanta goalie Chris Mason (25 saves) bumped into Buffalo's Paul Gaustad in the crease, leaving the post open to Roy's shot.

"We dig ourselves holes, but, like I said from the beginning, once we start to clean up a little bit in our own zone at the start of hockey games, we're going to be a lot better off," Mason said. "But there's no quit in here, that's for sure."

The Thrashers, who entered the day with the NHL's seventh-ranked power play, are 10-for-their-last-35 with the man advantage since starting the season 1-for-14. They have scored a power-play goal in seven-straight games now and picked up two on Friday, as they used that unit to get back in the game. The unit is powered by Byfuglien and his defense partner Tobias Enstrom, who man the points and each rank in the top 10 in the League in scoring by defensemen. Enstrom had two assists on Friday and has 2 goals and 8 assists in 10 games.

Right wing Niclas Bergfors put Atlanta ahead 3-2 on the power play after a miscue by Miller and Gaustad. They miscommunicated on who would play a dump-in behind the net and as they entangled, the puck came free to Atlanta's Anthony Stewart who fed Bergfors in front before Miller could get back in the net 50 seconds into the third period.

The Thrashers climbed back into the game in the second period, taking over during a period of almost 12 minutes in which Buffalo failed to record a shot on net. It started with the Thrashers' killing off a 5-on-3 disadvantage.

Enstrom was called for interference and before Atlanta got possession of the puck, rookie Alexander Burmistrov earned a second penalty for tripping Drew Stafford. Yet, Buffalo could not get the goal to break Atlanta's back.

Instead, Roy was called for holding Johnny Oduya with 1:19 left on the penalties. Atlanta killed them off and then earned a two-man advantage of its own when Rob Niedermayer went off for slashing at 8:27 and Shaone Morrisonn was called for boarding Andrew Ladd 21 seconds later.

Nik Antropov, yet to hit his stride as he battles back from offseason hip surgery, earned his first goal of the season, taking a pass from Byfuglien, who zipped the puck just under Tim Connolly's stick from the left point to Antropov down low on the right side. Antropov whipped the puck past Miller with 10:07 left in the period.

Atlanta got the equalizer on the 19-year-old Burmistrov's first career goal. Oduya picked up a Buffalo turnover in the neutral zone and, from along the left boards in Buffalo's zone, found an open Burmistrov streaking towards the net. Burmistrov, who also drew three penalties, beat Miller between the pads with wrist shot with 6:27 left in the period.

Buffalo had built a 2-0 first-intermission lead on goals by Connolly and Jordan Leopold.

Since beating Atlanta 4-1 here on Oct. 20, the Sabres have floundered, going 1-3 and allowing 14 goals in those losses. On Friday, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff sat captain Craig Rivet as a healthy scratch.

"I put a lot of thought into scratching Craig," Ruff said. "We are going to play the guys who are playing the best. Right now, we are 3-6-2. We got a point and if the six guys out there are playing well, they're going to stay in the game."

Atlanta lost center Bryan Little just 3:33 into the game when Little suffered a facial laceration after he was hit into the boards by Morrisonn.

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.