ATLANTA – It was business as usual for Michael Ryder and the Boston Bruins.
Ryder broke a tie with 6:04 left, and the Bruins beat the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 on Sunday to extend their wining streak to eight games and tie San Jose for the overall NHL lead with 58 points.
Three of the victories during the streak have come against Atlanta, and it was a win over the Thrashers back in October that helped turn the Bruins’ season around. Boston started 2-2-3, but has been on a roll since.
Ryder converted a perfect lead pass from David Krejci to beat goalie Kari Lehtonen for his 14th goal and second winner in two nights. On Saturday in Carolina, Ryder scored the go-ahead goal with 6:14 left in the Bruins’ 4-2 victory.
“I was just trying to chip it up over the goalie,” Ryder said about his winner against Atlanta. “We’re getting pretty good and creating a lot of offence. We’re doing what we do best and not trying to be too handsome.”
Boston outscored Atlanta 18-10 in sweeping the season series, but this victory wasn’t easy.
“They worked hard out there,” Boston’s Phil Kessel said of the Thrashers.
Kessel, who had three goals and three assists in the last three games against Atlanta, scored his 22nd goal, and Manny Fernandez made 32 saves, allowing only Bryan Little’s first-period goal.
“He was outstanding,” Boston coach Claude Julien said about Fernandez, who faced a power play in the final 1:57. “He had a couple of saves late in the game that definitely made a difference.”
“It was a battle, battle, battle,” Fernandez said. “I got lucky on a couple of shots.”
The winning streak, which started with two victories over Atlanta, is Boston’s longest since the final eight games of the 1992-93 regular season. The Bruins (27-5-4) have played one more game than San Jose (27-4-4).
Kessel, scoreless in two games after an 18-game points streak, tied it at 1:43 of the second period. He took a pass from Marc Savard and surprised Lehtonen, who had 26 saves, with a wrist shot from the high slot, beating him high to the stick side.
Atlanta gave up 12 consecutive shots during a long first-period stretch and failed to score on a late two-man advantage for 1:37. But the Thrashers opened the scoring shortly after the power play expired on Little’s unassisted goal.
After Boston’s Vladimir Sobotka missed a wide-open net on a short-handed chance, the Thrashers capitalized on the break. Little’s pass intended for Ilya Kovalchuk deflected off Boston defenceman Matt Hunwick and went past Fernandez into the net with 14.8 seconds left in the period. Little has 18 goals, six in the past three games.
“It’s frustrating,” Little said. “We worked so hard all game and they score in the last few minutes.”
Manny bailed us out on a couple of breakaways,” Boston defenceman Aaron Ward said. “We have to understand that we’re no longer under the radar. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody.”
Notes: Atlanta has lost six consecutive games to Boston dating to a 5-0 home victory on Dec. 29, 2007. … Thrashers C Todd White had an eight-game point streak stopped. . . . Bruins G Tim Thomas, who has won his past six games, got the night off in favour of Fernandez after playing Saturday in Carolina. … Ward returned to the Boston lineup after missing 10 of the past 11 games because of an ankle injury. … Thrashers C Erik Christensen played for the first time since Dec. 2 after having to work his way back into the lineup following a shoulder injury. C Jason Williams sat for the first time this season.