ATLANTA – The Boston Bruins finally figured out how to win a game after 60 minutes were up.
Patrice Bergeron had the only goal of the shootout after Michael Ryder scored twice in regulation, lifting Boston to a 4-3 victory over Atlanta that snapped the Thrashers’ four-game winning streak Thursday night.
Boston halted a three-game slide, which included an overtime loss and another that went to a shootout.
“We have lost several games in shootouts,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
Rask did his part by turning aside all three Atlanta shooter: Rich Peverley, Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk. Bergeron scored on Boston’s opening attempt, faking Ondrej Pavelec completely out of position and stuffing the puck into an open net.
“We knew we had to turn it around somehow,” said Ryder, who scored in the first and second periods. “We did a great job of back-checking.”
The Bruins were closing in on a regulation win, leading 3-2 when Atlanta pulled Pavelec for the extra skater. The Thrashers picked up a point when Maxim Afinogenov scored with 41.4 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Kovalchuk, who had already scored his 13th goal in 12 games, managed to keep it in the Boston zone, wheeled around and whipped a cross-ice pass to Afinogenov, the puck just missing the stick of flailing Bruins defender.
Afinogenov had time to settle the puck and rip a shot past Rask, just inside the far post for his eighth goal of the season. Afinogenov pumped his right fist and was knocked to ice by an exuberant Kovalchuk.
“He just, like, lifted me off the ice and we fell down together,” Afinogenov said. “That was nice.”
The Thrashers had the best chances in overtime but couldn’t beat Rask. Ditto for the shootout.
“That goal at the end could have been a killer,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But our guys decided that we weren’t going to allow that to be the winner. Tuukka Rask came up big in the shootout.”
The Bruins jumped ahead 2-0 in the opening period. Marco Sturm deflected in a shot by Mark Recchi and Ryder added to the lead with less than 2 minutes remaining, beating Pavelec with a wrist shot from the left circle.
The Thrashers stormed back in the second. Nik Antropov redirected a shot from Tobias Enstrom past Rask for his first goal of the season. Before that, Antropov had 16 points in 17 games – all with assists.
Then there’s Kovalchuk, who’s all about goals. He tied the game at 2 with a perfectly placed shot into the upper left corner off a pass from Enstrom, who picked up his second assist.
Boston, which had the league’s worst-rated power play, finally came through with Peverley off for hooking. Ryder scored his second goal of the night and sixth of the season, pushing the Bruins back to a 3-2 lead.
David Krejci passed out from behind the net and Ryder beat Pavelec from a sharp angle, the puck apparently nicking Thrashers defenceman Zach Bogosian on its way in.
“We did get a point. We battled back,” Bogosian said. “It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we got a point out of it. That’s kind of a positive.”
NOTES: Atlanta has lost seven straight to the Bruins. … Boston was bolstered by the return of Milan Lucic, who missed 14 games because of a broken finger. Boston was still missing another top-line forward, Marc Savard, who is close to returning from a broken foot. … Rask started in goal over Tim Thomas, who was suffering from what the Bruins described as “an undisclosed injury but short term.”