With the way things have been going for the Atlanta Thrashers lately, it doesn’t seem to make much difference who starts in goal.
Coming off their second shutout in three games, the Thrashers look to win their fourth in a row Monday night when they host the struggling Florida Panthers, who try to avoid losing five straight for the first time in a year.
Atlanta (13-7-3) is tied for the fifth-fewest goals allowed in the Eastern Conference with 65, and both starter Ondrej Pavelec(notes) and backup Johan Hedberg(notes) have picked up their play of late.
Hedberg stopped 34 shots in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Philadelphia, snapping a 14-game losing streak to the Flyers to end what was the NHL’s longest current losing streak against one opponent.
While Peverley and the Atlanta offense managed only 18 shots - including three in the third - Hedberg stopped 13 shots in the final 20 minutes for his first shutout since Nov. 16, 2007, at Carolina.
Hedberg’s performance came just three days after Pavelec made 40 saves in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Detroit, the start of the Thrashers’ three-game winning streak.
“Well it starts with the goalies,” Atlanta defenseman Pavel Kubina(notes) said. “They’ve been unbelievable. “Pavs and Moose have made unbelievable saves in unbelievable performances by those two goalies. We’ve been better at reducing turnovers in our own zone and we’ve been working on it in practice. The penalty-killing has been awesome. Guys are diving to block shots, and it’s a great team effort. It’s fun to be around.”
The Thrashers have stopped all 12 of their opponents’ power-play opportunities during the winning streak and look to continue this strong defensive effort against a sputtering Florida team that is just 2 for 23 with the man advantage in its last six games.
Despite Atlanta’s recent success, it went 2-3-1 against the Panthers last season and has lost five of six meetings at Philips Arena.
Hedberg, who is 4-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average since Nov. 8, is 1-3-0 with a 2.67 GAA in his last six games against Florida.
Pavelec, who is 3-0-2 with a 2.15 GAA and two shutouts since Nov. 13, has fared better against the Panthers, posting a 2.00 GAA in winning his two career starts against them.
While Florida’s had the advantage in this series lately, it arrives in Atlanta in a bit of a slump.
The Panthers (10-11-4) are coming off a Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Nashville, their fourth straight defeat.
Florida, which hasn’t lost five consecutive games since a six-game slide from Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2008, is struggling to generate offense, especially in the third period.
The Panthers have scored two goals or fewer three times on their skid while being outscored 8-2 in the third period in those games. Florida yielded three third-period goals in the loss to the Predators.
“We had a really good second period, then we shot ourselves in the foot,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We just can’t afford to make mistakes like we made in the third period, it costs us games.”
Tomas Vokoun(notes) got the night off Saturday, but is expected to be back in goal for this contest. Vokoun, who is 0-1-2 with a 2.89 GAA in his last three games, went 4-1-0 with a 2.98 GAA in five starts against the Thrashers last season.