A surprising turnaround has renewed the Atlanta Thrashers’ hopes of earning the second playoff berth in franchise history.
A season-high fifth straight win would push Atlanta into eighth place in the Eastern Conference past the Boston Bruins, who visit Philips Arena on Tuesday night.
Atlanta’s postseason chances appeared to be sliding away during an 0-5-1 skid from March 6-14. The Thrashers managed eight goals over that stretch, but have responded with a scoring surge that has powered them to four straight victories and within one point of the Bruins (32-27-12).
“When you get closer, you start to feel like it’s doable. The energy level has gotten better, and all of a sudden, we’re back in it,” center Rich Peverley(notes) said following a 3-1 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday night. “Now, we’re a point out and we have Boston Tuesday, which is our biggest game of the year.”
Antropov has 21 points in his last 16 games and leads the team with a career-best 63.
The Thrashers now face one of three teams to shut them out this season, and one they have not beaten in more than two years.
Tuukka Rask(notes) stopped 18 shots in a 4-0 victory over Atlanta on Dec. 30, Boston’s ninth in a row in the series. He made 32 saves in a 4-3 shootout win Nov. 19 in the most recent meeting at Philips Arena.
The Thrashers have not beaten the Bruins since a 5-0 home victory Dec. 29, 2007.
Rask gave his team a much-needed boost by stopping 23 shots in a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, coming within 3:04 of his fourth shutout of the season.
The Bruins had dropped three of four and were booed off the ice following a 3-0 home loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Now Rask expects his team to avoid a letdown as it goes for its third victory in four games.
“We always show up with a good effort like today, then the next game’s not so good,” Rask said. “We need to talk and discuss things and make sure we show up with the same kind of effort in Atlanta.”
The Bruins have been inconsistent offensively over the past five games, scoring 11 goals in that span with five coming in a win over Carolina on March 16.
“We’ve just got to bring it every night,” forward Michael Ryder(notes) said. “We’ve got to have that desperation in our game that we need to have right now. At this point of the year, we can’t afford to lose games and give away points.”
Boston has scored 13 times in its three wins over the Thrashers this season, with Ryder recording a team-leading three goals. He has eight goals and three assists in his last nine matchups with Atlanta, but comes in slumping with one goal and three assists over his last 12 games.
The Thrashers have not won five in a row since a franchise-record six-game run last March.