Thrashers 4, Sabres 3, OT
With two seconds left on the power play that began when he drew an interference call, Stefan scored his first career overtime goal to end the Thrashers’ four-game winless streak with a 4-3 victory Monday over the Buffalo Sabres.
“They used almost all of the time up on the power play and made the Buffalo guys pretty tired,” Stefan said of his teammates on the first line. “You could see it when I was coming into the zone. Their guys were kind of tired.”
Stefan and the second line were on the ice just a couple of seconds when he skated toward the left side of the crease. After Buffalo’s Rory Fitzpatrick made a fruitless dive to stop Marc Savard’s pass from the bottom of the right circle, Stefan nudged the puck between the legs of goaltender Martin Biron with 1:06 remaining.
The Thrashers snapped an 0-3-1 slide.
Buffalo, which ended an eight-game winless streak with a 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday, has lost six of seven.
“I’m happy we beat them,” Vyacheslav Kozlov said of his former Sabres teammates. “We were in a slump a little bit, and this will give us confidence to go on the road trip.”
Atlanta, which started 0-for-5 on the power play Monday and was 1-for-18 in the last four games, scored its last three goals with a man advantage. Buffalo defenseman Alexei Zhitnik was penalized for interference in overtime, and Adam Mair served a major and game misconduct for elbowing in the third.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff thought the call on Mair was extreme.
“Someone will have to explain that to me,” Ruff said. “Why not two minutes for elbowing? Why five minutes? We put together a good game except for the penalty killing.”
With 7:47 remaining, Kozlov charged toward the crease and fired a shot under Biron’s left pad to make it 2-2. Dany Heatley gave the Thrashers a 3-2 lead 2:08 later by faking a shot to his left and firing past Biron on the right side of the net.
“Heatley shot the puck twice,” Biron said. “He didn’t have much room. He made a great play. That was what they were waiting for.”
Curtis Brown’s short-handed goal made it 3-3 with 4:06 left in regulation. Brown, who scored the game-winner with a short-handed goal early in the third period of Saturday’s 5-4 win over the New York Rangers, charged down the inside of the left circle and took Jochen Hecht’s pass from the right circle to beat Frederic Cassivi, Atlanta’s emergency goalie.
Cassivi, called up Sunday from Chicago of the AHL, started when Byron Dafoe injured his left groin in pregame warmups. Cassivi had been out of the NHL for 10 months, but saved 24 shots.
“I haven’t been playing much in the minors, and I thought Milan (Hnilicka) would be called up,” Cassivi said. “I was surprised by the phone call. I got nervous a little bit, but I had to take my chance.”
Buffalo took a 2-1 lead 5:14 into the second when Tim Connolly scored on the power play. Connolly’s goal, his ninth, came after his shot from the top of the slot ricocheted off the stick of Atlanta defenseman Tony Hrkac and into the net.
Biron, who dropped to 11-21-5, made 26 saves.
Dafoe will be re-evaluated Tuesday. … Atlanta’s best goalie, Pasi Nurminen, also has a strained left groin and is expected to miss two weeks. … Hecht, who missed the last two games with an injured wrist, played nearly 16 minutes. … The Thrashers, who won’t play a home game for 18 days, improved to 2-25 when trailing after two periods. … Atlanta’s Richard Smehlik bruised hisleft wrist in the first period and didn’t return.