-- Defenseman Ron Hainsey's first multi-point game of the season led the surging Atlanta Thrashers
to a 3-1 victory Sunday over the Philadelphia Flyers
at the Wachovia Center. Ondrej Pavelec made 44 saves as the Flyers tied their season-high total of 45 shots.
The Thrashers held onto ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind the Boston Bruins, whom they host Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Flyers fell to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The idle Ottawa Senators moved into fifth place with the exact same record and points as the Flyers.
The victory gave the Thrashers a sweep of the weekend home-and-home series and the four-game season series against the Flyers. The Thrashers won, 5-2, Saturday in Atlanta.
"It was special for me, a huge game for me," Pavelec said. "Boston won this afternoon. I haven't won in a couple of weeks and we needed two points. The guys did a great job for me."
The Flyers had won six of their last seven games at home. They fell to 6-8-0 in the second game when they play back-to-back games.
"Last night, we outplayed them, but tonight I thought it could have gone either way," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "Pavelec did a great job for us. We wanted to get off to a quick start, which is what we did. We wanted to control play right from the start. We put them on their heels a little bit. When you play a lot of games in a row, it makes it a little harder to come back. That hill is a little tougher to climb."
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher was beaten on a trio of long shots and fell to 1-2-1 since replacing injured Michael Leighton
last week as the Flyers' No. 1 goalie. The three shots that beat him totaled 94 feet: Hainsey's 26-footer; Todd White's 29-footer and Rich Peverley's 39-footer.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette didn't blame Boucher, nor did Boucher.
"We need to do a better job as a group – collectively, everybody – defensively," Laviolette said.
"Yeah, the first period didn't help. Compared to their goalie there, he made some big saves, and we weren't able to score on him," Boucher said. "Some credit goes to him, but also it'd be nice if we had a better start than what we had."
Hainsey's alertness led to the Thrashers' first two goals. Peverley fired the puck behind the Flyers net to Clarke MacArthur who tried to feed Bryan Little in the slot. The pass went through Little to Hainsey, who cheated down the left side and fired a long shot past Brian Boucher at 2:04 of the first period.
"It just got through 'Lits' … he didn't see it," Hainsey said. "I just tried to sneak down there and I don't think the goalie was ready for it. Once it got through the first guy, I don't think he could see it. I was able to get one and get us on the board there."
The Flyers had to back off the puck in the Atlanta zone midway through the first period to avoid a hand-pass call. Hainsey caught them flat-footed with an outlet pass up the left boards to Jim Slater, who deflected it to a breaking Todd White, who five-holed Boucher from a distance.
"It was a great play. They didn't want to touch it because it would have been a hand pass," Hainsey said. "We caught them just a little off guard, bang-bang. They kind of all went away and we caught them in a lull, waiting for a whistle, and 'Whitey' finished it off."
Laviolette used his timeout after the second goal and the Flyers outplayed Atlanta for the rest of the first period and outshot them by a wide margin over the remainder of the game, 45-31.
"I got 51 (shots) in Ottawa," Pavelec said with a laugh. "I haven't played a lot lately and they had a lot of shots in the first period. That helped me get into the game. I always saw the first shots. The guys did a great job in front of me and they cleaned the crease. It was a team effort and a great game."
The Flyers closed to within 2-1 at 11:56 of the third period when Matt Carle
pursued the puck behind the Atlanta net and fed Mike Richards in the slot, and the latter tossed a quick shot over Pavelec's catching glove. Carle has points in six of his last nine games.
The Thrashers got the goal back at 16:53 when Peverley carried into the Flyers' zone, defended by Carle, and fired a 40-foot wrist shot past Boucher.
The Thrashers' chances seemed slim a week ago but they have bounced back with wins over Buffalo, Ottawa, and now Philadelphia twice.
"Yeah, we had to win four games this week because we lost (six) in a row there," Hainsey said. "One thing that was really going to keep us in there was, four wins, five wins … we got nine points out of 10. Now we have a game for that last playoff spot on Tuesday. We won this game tonight. The biggest game of the year is on Tuesday."