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Senators top reeling Thrashers 3-1

by John Manasso
ATLANTA – First it was Andrew Ladd's turn.

Atlanta's captain and leading scorer was stopped on a breakaway after skating in alone by Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson about seven minutes into Thursday's game.

Then with just more than nine minutes left in the second period, it was Bryan Little's turn on a shorthanded breakaway. Anderson blunted the former 30-goal scorer's shot.

Finally, Tim Stapleton broke in alone with less than a minute left in the second. He tried to fake Anderson down, but put a weak shot into his belly.

After Thursday's 3-1 win in which Anderson made 42 saves to earn his fourth victory in six starts since getting traded to the Senators by Colorado, he was asked if he could remember ever stopping three breakaways in a game.

"Not really," Anderson said. "I try to put the games that have happened in the past in the past and only go back to them maybe when things aren't going the way you want them to… For me, it's just a matter of looking forward…"

Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said those stops "put a little sting in our bench."

Since arriving in Ottawa, everything seems to have gone Anderson's way, so he has no need to look back right now. He has stopped 197 of 204 shots for a .966 save percentage. Aside from allowing three goals in a 4-2 loss at Buffalo on Feb. 25, Anderson has allowed one goal or less in each of his five other starts.

"Anderson is in a zone right now," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "… He allowed us to get our game going, especially at the start of the game. The first four or five shifts, they were all over us and when we faltered, he was there for us."

Colorado had a strong start to the season, but the Avs dealt Anderson as they fell out of the race in the Western Conference. In 2009-10, Anderson won 38 games (two shy of the Avs' franchise record held by Patrick Roy), posted seven shutouts and led the NHL in shots faced and saves. For Anderson, the move has been just what he needed - even though Ottawa entered the night one point removed from having the worst record in the League.

"Any time you get a fresh start -- not many guys get an opportunity to press a reset button on the season and for me coming into to Ottawa it's been a great fit so far," he said. "I look at it as a brand new fresh season and put the one from Colorado behind me."

Rookie Colin Greening, a seventh-round draft pick from Cornell, scored his first career goal in his eighth game to put the Sens on top 1-0 at 2:56 of the first period. Greening took the rebound of Brian Lee's point shot and backhanded it towards the net. The puck glanced off Dustin Byfuglien's skate and into the net.

Another rookie, Bobby Butler, made it 2-0 just 60 seconds into the third period, beating Chris Mason high to the glove side from the left circle, as Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian left an enormous gap for Butler to size up his shot.

Atlanta finally scored 6:46 into the third period on its 34th shot. Little won an offensive zone faceoff, which set up a slap shot from Byfuglien at the left point with Blake Wheeler screening Anderson. The goal was Byfuglien's 19th of the season, best among NHL defensemen.

At that point, Atlanta - even though it entered the night only six points out of a playoff spot -- finally seemed to find some energy.

"We started playing with a little more fire when we came within one," said Mason, who has allowed seven goals in his last 224 minutes over the last four games. "At this point of the year, we have to have that right from the start. I know it happens sometimes, but when you're in the situation we're in, you can't let little things deflate your team or need something like that to get you going. We're desperate. We need to win hockey games. We're getting ourselves farther and farther out of the playoffs. We did bounce back, but you shouldn't have to wait until the third period to get that energy."

But the Thrashers had some bad shifts in their zone with broken coverages and Nick Foligno scored with 8:39 to ice it for Ottawa, deflecting Derek Smith's point shot.

For the fifth straight game, the Thrashers registered more than 40 shots -- and for the fourth time in that span, they lost. In each of those four losses, they have scored one goal. The Thrashers are 1-6-1 in their last eight games and trail the eighth-place New York Rangers by seven points.

Ramsay described the mood in the locker room as "very somber right now" and said there is "a lot of disappointment hanging over the room at the moment."When Anderson made the three stops on the breakaways, he said his team has to avoid the mentality of saying, "'Oh my God, here we go again.'

"We just have to find a way to cash them in," he said. "Those were key saves for them."

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