ATLANTA - After struggling to get the power play going early, Atlanta converted on its fourth chance, a big one that broke up a 1-1 tie and propelled the Thrashers to a 4-1 victory over Boston on Wednesday.
With the game deadlocked late in the second period, Marian Hossa's cross-crease feed found Scott Mellanby open on the far side of the net. The captain went top shelf for the go-ahead power-play goal at 14:27 and Atlanta cruised to its third consecutive win in front of 12,579 at Philips Arena.
"Hoss served a perfect pass to Mel and that was a huge goal because Boston had just tied the game so it was important for us to take it back and generate some momentum," Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley said.
"We cashed in on the big one (power play) that we needed to cash in on and we got the win."
Atlanta remains atop the Southeast Division standings with a 3-0-1 record. The Bruins, whose only goal ended a team-record shutout streak for goalie Kari Lehtonen, fell to 1-2-0.
"I thought we weathered our own storm and we played a lot better the last two periods," said Jon Sim, who had the game's first goal.
Sim and Metropolit scored their first goals of the season and Hossa potted his team-leading fourth. Lehtonen has allowed one goal in the last three games.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who has yet to light the lamp this season, assisted on Sim's tally and should be given an unofficial assist on the crucial power-play goal. For the third time in the game, Boston got a 2-on-1 breakaway during the Atlanta power play. Kovalchuk, though better known for his offensive skills, was the lone man back and sacrificed his body, going down to defuse the situation.
"He's playing both ends of the rink and he's skating great, he's shooting the puck great, he's getting a lot of scoring chances," Sim said. "He's playing great I think."
The Thrashers scored on the ensuing rush up ice and then doubled their lead 68 seconds later. Skating up the boards, Metropolit rifled a close-range shot over Hannu Toivonen's far shoulder and gave Atlanta a 3-1 advantage at 15:35.
"Up 3-1, we felt we had the game where we wanted it," Hartley said. "We just had to keep going and Hoss scored that unbelievable goal. That goal was worth the price of admission I thought."
Hossa did a little toe drag around the Boston defenseman and beat Toivonen with a low shot. It was more than enough insurance for Atlanta.
"I tried to fake a shot and it went underneath his stick," Hossa said. "I got lucky the puck went underneath. I just tried to shoot five-hole and the puck went in."
Former Thrasher Marc Savard, who racked up nearly 100 points for the Thrashers last season, was held off the score sheet in his return to Philips.
Savard left Atlanta as a free agent this summer and started the game for Boston. He was booed by a couple of lonely souls each time he touched the puck on the opening shift.
But what they should have booed in the first period was Atlanta's power play. It was mediocre at best and the Bruins had a couple 2-on-1 rushes because of Thrasher errors. It didn't cost them in terms of goals against - Lehtonen was steady under pressure - but it did keep Atlanta from maintaining the offensive flow.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Thrashers had more than a minute on the power play to start what turned out to be a dramatically more interesting second period.
Atlanta failed to score on that man advantage, but about 90 seconds later Sim gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead. Sim whipped a shot from the left wing half boards and, with Steve Rucchin creating traffic in front, it beat Toivonen 2:53 into the second.
Boston tied it at 5:14 on a power-play goal credited to P.J. Axelsson, ending Lehtonen's team record scoreless streak at 167 minutes, 56 seconds. A wrister from Brad Boyes in the faceoff circle hit Axelsson in the body and deflected past Lehtonen. It was, however, the only puck to get by Lehtonen.
"This team right now has plenty of confidence because we count on Kari, we know every time he's in net, we have a chance to win," Hartley said.