The Cinderella Atlanta Thrashers found their misplaced glass slipper. Now they just have to hitch a way to the postseason ball.
Nik Antropov netted the game-winning goal and Colby Armstrong scored a pair, leading the Thrashers to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Philips Arena.
Bryan Little and Niclas Bergfors also scored for Atlanta, which won its third straight game to move within a point of the idle Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East.
“We know what’s at stake every game,” Armstrong said. “We’re just trying to worry about ourselves and win games.”
This time last week, the Thrashers were scratching their heads, capping off a miserable eight day stretch where they lost six games and plummeted into 11th place, as many as six points behind the Bruins.
But the team has regrouped after that 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes last Sunday, beating the playoff bound Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and the Flyers en route to knocking on Boston’s doorstep.
Atlanta, which will face Boston on Tuesday here at Philips Arena, could enter that contest in eighth place if the Thrashers fend off Philadelphia in the back end of their home-and-home with the Flyers on Sunday and Boston falls to the New York Rangers.
Who would have thought that the Thrashers had much of a chance at anything other than the lottery a week ago?
“The guys were not getting down our ourselves,” Atlanta forward Eric Boulton said. “We lost all those games in a row, but we were still five points out. All we can do is take it one game at a time.”
Just like they have the past two games, the Thrashers opened up an early lead. But this time, they never allowed the Flyers to climb within anything more than a goal.
Bergfors opened the scoring, poking his own rebound past Phildelphia third-string netminder Brian Boucher for the 1-0 lead 108 seconds into this one before Armstrong doubled the lead at 5:42 of the frame.
Daniel Carcillo halved the Atlanta lead, tipping Chris Pronger’s shot from the left point past Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg at 8:16 of the first before Antropov netted the game winner midway through the second period.
Bergfors fed the big forward with a pretty backhanded pass from behind the net. Antropov blasted the puck from between the circles for his 22nd goal of the season, giving the Thrashers a 3-1 lead.
Blair Betts cut the Atlanta lead to one at 14:34 of the second before Little and Armstrong put the game away with third period goals.
Armstrong has five points (four goals and one assist) in his last two games.
Hedberg steered aside 25 shots en route to notching his third straight win. Boucher stopped 23 for the Flyers.
“We didn’t make many mistakes tonight,” Hedberg said. “It was a strong win for us.”
The winning streak couldn’t come at a better time for Atlanta, which has struggled with consistency this season. Atlanta won three in a row for the first time since posting four straight wins from Nov. 25-30, 2009.
Atlanta picked the right time to step up their game, holding Philadelphia to three second period shots.
“I think our second period was art,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “I think we allowed only three shots in the period. We played very hard. Moose came up big in the third period, because they had a lot of chances pushing it.”
The “Broad Street Bullies” couldn’t even win with their fists.
Jim Slater took down Carcillo in a mele 39 seconds into the game before Boulton and Ian Laperriere exchanged blows at the 3:49 mark of the first.
The Atlanta enforcer landed a couple of blows on Lapierriere before wrestling him down to the ice. Boulton passed Jeff Odgers (532) for the franchise record in penalty minutes with 536.
“That’s kind of cool,” Boulton said of the record.
Tobias Enstrom picked up a pair of assists for Atlanta, which improved to 3-0-0 against the Flyers this season.