ATLANTA (AP) _ Daniel Tjarnqvist was just trying to get the puck near the
net. It wound up going in.
The Atlanta defenseman scored on a 55-foot shot with 7:24 remaining and the
Thrashers kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a 3-2 victory over
Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
``We'll have to check the radar on that one,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley
quipped. ``I believe it was clocked around 38 mph.''
Tjarnqvist flipped a shot from just inside the blue line that got by Matthew
Yeats, making his first NHL start. The rookie goaltender was screened by Ilya
Kovalchuk, and the puck also appeared to slightly deflect off a Washington
player in front.
``I'd rather see a 38 mph shot that's on net than a 110 mph shot that's on
the glass,'' Hartley said. ``It was a shot on net and there was traffic in
front. That's the way you score goals.''
The winning goal came just three minutes after Brian Willsie tied it for the
Capitals, knocking a rebound past Kari Lehtonen. Atlanta's rookie goalie won
his second straight start since getting called up from the minors.
The Thrashers tied a franchise record with their 31st victory, but they're
still 10 points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference. Atlanta, which has never made the postseason in its
five-year history, has only five games remaining.
``We don't want to give up the push until the end,'' forward Ronald
Petrovicky said. ``We're going to keep trying to win every game and see what
Petrovicky had what amounted to a four-point night. He scored one goal and
assisted on two others, but also knocked the puck in his own net for a
Yeats was pressed into service when Washington decided to keep two more
qualified goalies with its AHL affiliate, which is contending for a playoff
spot. The Capitals, of course, gave up on the playoffs long ago.
Yeats made his NHL debut the previous night, stopping all 14 shots in the
third period of a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders. Olaf Kolzig, the
Capitals' No. 1 goalie, got the night off in the second of back-to-back games.
``That was good, two young guys going at it,'' said Yeats, who faced 33
shots. ``He got the better of me.''
Lehtonen had a relatively easy night, facing 25 shots and few of the tough
variety. Still, Hartley was impressed with the way he remained focused during
lulls in the action.
``Sometimes, you would rather a young goalie face 30 or 40 shots to keep him
in the game,'' the coach said. ``It was one of those games where he never knew
when he would have a chance to make a save. But he stayed in the game. He was
sharp for us.''
Yeats lived a charmed life in the early going. The Thrashers put three shots
off the post in the first period alone, then Randy Robitaille made it 0-for-4
when he clanked a shot off the iron in the opening minute of the second.
``The post was my best friend,'' Yeats said.
A short time later, the youngster finally ran out of luck. With the Capitals
bottled up by furious forechecking, Petrovicky skated out from behind the net
and scored his 16th goal at 2:51, putting a shot through Yeats' legs.
The Capitals tied it exactly six minutes later with a fortuitous bounce.
From behind the net, Matt Pettinger flipped the puck out front, where it
deflected off Petrovicky's stick and slid under Lehtonen's left pad with the
goalie twisted out of position.
Petrovicky made up for his miscue at 14:51 of the second, setting up the
Thrashers' go-ahead goal. He passed out front to Patrik Stefan, who scored his
career-high 13th goal with a backhander past Yeats.