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Strong start helps Thrashers snap three-game skid

by John Manasso
ATLANTA --  Following Thursday's morning skate, Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay explained his latest line-tinkering by saying that he liked pairing the team's oldest player, left wing Freddy Modin, with the team's youngest, 19-year-old rookie Alexander Burmistrov, because Burmistrov could learn from Modin while on the ice.

Ramsay might want to keep that pair together for a while. The line, which also includes rugged right wing Ben Eager, scored once at even strength (Eager's second goal of the season) and then Modin scored shorthanded with an assist from Burmistrov that put the game away as Atlanta snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild before 10,055 at Philips Arena.

"Yeah, we've been playing a few games together and we're gradually getting to know each other a little bit, reading off each other," said Modin, 36. "Tonight, I thought we played pretty well. Benny coming on that line, too. Felt good from the start. We had good battles down low. We managed the puck pretty well, I thought, throughout the whole game there, so it was a good one for us."

Asked if it were the best game of the season for the Thrashers (7-6-3), Modin responded, "Yeah, why not?"

In fact, Atlanta, which entered the game with the highest goals-against in the NHL (56), had not allowed two goals or less in a game. Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves for his first win of the season, but not many of the difficult variety.

Minnesota, which had been off since Saturday, had only eight shots in the second period but it hardly seemed that many as the Wild entered the third period down 3-0. Niklas Backstrom was strong with 29 saves as Minnesota had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Pavelec also was asked if it were the best performance of the season.

"For me, for sure because I got the win -- finally," he said, having missed a few weeks after his fainting spell in the season opener led to a concussion, a hospital stay and more testing than he would have liked. He improved to 1-1-2.

Ramsay tinkered with the Thrashers' lines on Thursday, as he does on a continual basis, and it provided quick results. On the second shift of the game for Burmistrov's line, Modin took a pass from defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and skated behind the net, then came around low by the left circle where he sent Eager a backhand pass that he ripped from the slot past Backstrom at 3:24 for a 1-0 lead.

The Thrashers made it 2-0 with 6:49 left in the first by turning around a facet of the game that has hurt them recently. Jim Slater won an offensive zone faceoff -- the Thrashers had lost 60 and 59 percent of draws, respectively, in their previous two games but improved that by losing only 53 percent on Thursday -- that resulted in a hard point shot from Byfuglien. Slater put in the rebound, as Byfuglien picked up his second assist of the game, which lifted him into a tie for the League lead in points by a defenseman with 16. Byfuglien entered third in that department but vaulted Pittsburgh's Kris Letang and ended up even with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.

Amazingly, it was only the third time in 16 games that Atlanta had gone into the first intermission with a lead.

The Thrashers made it 3-0 late in the second period, right after receiving their best save of the game from Pavelec. Matt Cullen was on the doorstep with the puck and Pavelec went into the snow angel, stopping the shot that Cullen could not lift.

On the ensuing rush into Minnesota's end, Rich Peverley retried a puck from the corner and then skated to towards the left post. He passed wide of the net to Ladd – just wide enough that Backstrom went down into his butterfly to try and stop it. That gave Ladd plenty of time to put the puck in an open net with 44.7 seconds left in the period.

Ladd was one of four Thrashers with a two-point night. In addition to him and Byfuglien, Modin and Toby Enstrom also had two.

Minnesota used the League's second-best power play to get on the board at 3:15 of the third period. With Zach Bogosian in the penalty box for slashing, Antti Miettinen redirected Brent Burns' point shot behind Pavelec's legs. Over their last three games, the Thrashers have allowed opponents to score on five of eight power plays.

"We stayed out of the box -- that was a key because they have a great power play," Pavelec said of the team's three minor penalties on Thursday. "We played great hockey for all 60 minutes."

Modin scored a shorthanded goal at 6:06 of the third period to make it 4-1 and Nik Antropov scored his fourth goal of the season with 5:08 in regulation.

Minnesota defenseman Justin Faulk, who was minus-2, was asked if the Wild were rusty.

"I don't want to make any excuses," he said. "We just weren't good enough in our end. Myself, I was terrible and I need to be better."

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