ATLANTA — Craig Anderson continues to enjoy his fresh start with the Ottawa Senators.
The netminder made 42 saves and Nick Foligno scored the clinching goal with just under nine minutes remaining Thursday, as the Senators downed the fading Atlanta Thrashers 3-1.
Acquired two weeks ago from Colorado in a swap of struggling goaltenders, Anderson has thrived since taking over in net for the Senators. He’s won four of six starts with a sparkling .966 save percentage, giving up only seven goals while facing 204 shots.
“Anytime you get a fresh start, that’s good,” said Anderson, who new team still sits last in the Eastern Conference. “Not many guys get a restart like this. I look at it as a handout.”
Then there’s the Thrashers, whose playoff hopes took another crushing blow with their 11th loss in the last 13 games. They trail the eighth-place New York Rangers by seven points.
“It was very sombre in the room,” coach Craig Ramsey said. “That was a game we felt we should win.”
The Thrashers lost again despite outshooting Ottawa 43-27. Anderson turned aside three breakaways and one last shot at the horn, giving the Senators their fourth win in six games.
This has become a familiar theme for Atlanta, which has gotten off more than 40 shots in five straight games — and has just three points to show for it. During than span, the Thrashers have managed only seven goals on 214 shots.
“When you’re going through these stretches, the key issue probably is to try to score a couple early and get everybody on a roll, get everybody feeling good about what’s going on, not saying, ‘Oh my God, here we go again,”‘ Ramsey said.
Even though they’re just playing out the season, the Senators want to ride on Anderson’s back as long as they can.
“Craig is in a zone right now,” Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. “They were putting a lot of pucks and bodies at the net.”
Colin Greening, with his first in the NHL, scored the only goal through the first two periods on a shot that deflected off the skate of Atlanta defenceman Dustin Byfuglien.
Bobby Butler made it 2-0 a minute into the third, before Byfuglien gave the Thrashers hope with his 19th goal. But Foligno clinched it on a deflection of Derek Smith’s shot from the point.
The Thrashers kept firing away at Anderson, but the only shot to get past him was Byfuglien’s low drive from the point at 6:46 of the third through traffic.
With the sparse crowd finally showing signs of life, Atlanta kept the pressure on but couldn’t come up with the equalizer. Finally, Foligno’s 11th goal finished off any hope of a comeback, the puck skidding past Thrashers goalie Chris Mason.
Atlanta put 16 shots on goal in the opening period alone, but it was Ottawa getting the only goal off a fluke play. Mason had made the initial save on Brian Lee, and Greening picked off the rebound and fired toward the goal. It appeared to be headed wide, only to catch Byfuglien’s blade and ricochet into the net.
In the third, Butler swept in off the left wing and beat Mason with a perfectly placed shot in the top right corner over the glove hand.
NOTES: There were only four penalties called in the game. Two came in a would-be fight between enforcers Francis Lessard of Ottawa and Eric Boulton of Atlanta. They dropped the gloves but wound up skating around each other for several seconds, both cautious about throwing the first punch. Finally, Boulton lunged at Lessard and they tumbled to the ice. The refs didn’t even bother calling a fighting penalty, sending them both off for roughing. … The crowd was announced at 10,461, but there appeared to be no more than 5,000 in Philips Arena. … Atlanta dropped to 2-5-2 this season when getting off at least 40 shots.