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You know things are going good for your hockey team when a guy like Mark Stuart finds the back of the net twice. That’s just how it’s going for the Boston Bruins these days.
The B’s handled the Atlanta Thrashers 7-3 Friday night in Atlanta, as Phil Kessel scored a goal and added two assists in the game, extending his league-best point streak to 14 games.
Boston came out fast, scoring four goals in the 1st period alone. Stuart opened the scoring, hopping up into the play and firing a wrist shot past Thrashers netminder Ondrej Pavelec just 3:31 into the frame.
Stephane Yelle made it 2-0 just 37 seconds later, tipping linemate Petteri Nokelainen’s wrister past Pavelec at 4:08.
Captain Zdeno Chara got on the scoreboard next, using his mammoth size to shield the puck from 5’10 Slava Kozlov and put a wrap-around attempt past Pavelec. The tally was Chara’s 6th of the season, with Kessel and Milan Lucic notching the assists.
Michael Ryder scored next on the power play, firing a rocket over the shoulder Johan Hedberg, in for the departed Pavelec. The strike was Ryder’s 8th goal of the year.
Todd White made it 4-1 at 16:16 of the 1st, capitalizing on a Boston penalty by tipping an Ilya Kovalchuk shot past Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
The 2nd period was a different animal than the first, as both team’s defenses tightened up, and neither club found the back of the net.
Kessel re-started the scoring just 1:15 into the 3rd period however, putting a rebound past Hedberg to give Boston the 5-1 lead for his team-leading 18th goal of the year.
Kovalchuk made it a 5-2 game minutes later, but subsequent tallies by Lucic and Stuart put the game out of reach, as the Bruins improved to 20-5-4, tops in the Eastern Conference. The Thrashers remain in the East’s basement, sitting at 9-15-4 on the year.
Boston continues it’s home-and-home set with Atlanta Saturday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. The puck drops at 7:00 pm, with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on NESN.
Phil Kessel (BOS) – Phil the Thrill has been finding his name in this category quite often lately, and for good reason. The young winger currently boasts a 14-game point streak, the best in the NHL this season. He’s on pace for 55 goals, and is scoring at a PPG pace. He led the Bruins with 1-2-3 totals tonight, and is looking ever more like the franchise forward he was touted to be.
Ondrej Pavelec (ATL) – The young netminder has been touted as the possible answer in the Atlanta goal, as current encumbent Kari Lehtonen has battled injury problems his entire career since being drafted 2nd overall in 2002. Pavelec looked like anything but an NHL netminder Friday night though, making just 2 saves on 5 shots before vacating the net for the 35-year-old Hedberg. It was hands down the worst netminding performance Boston has seen this year.