ATLANTA – The Atlanta Thrashers have a lot of ground to make up after winning only one of their first 10 games following the all-star break.
They hope their come-from-behind win against Toronto can launch a comeback in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Ron Hainsey scored from the edge of the left circle at 2:31 of overtime Sunday as the Thrashers beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Maple Leafs 3-2 to snap a five-game winless streak.
It was a much-needed boost for the Thrashers, who trailed 2-0 entering the third period.
“We had to win that game,” Hainsey said. “We’ve been losing against teams that we were racing.”
The Thrashers and Maple Leafs are tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with 63 points. Both teams trail eighth-place Carolina by four points.
“We’re in business,” Hainsey said. “We’re right there. We’ve got a race.”
Hainsey said he hadn’t had a game-winning shot in overtime “since I was, oh, 10.”
Chris Mason had 22 saves and Andrew Ladd and Tim Stapleton scored third-period goals for Atlanta.
Atlanta’s rally came after Toronto lost goaltender James Reimer to an injury early in the second period.
Giguere, who hadn’t played since Feb. 16 while recovering from a lower body injury, replaced Reimer and lost the lead in the third before giving up Hainsey’s game-winning goal.
“No one likes to go in because of an injury, but I was ready and I told them I was ready,” Giguere said.
Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel scored first-period goals for Toronto, and it appeared the Maple Leafs might be headed for another lopsided win in Atlanta. Toronto had six second-period goals in a 9-3 win at Philips Arena on Jan. 7.
This time, Toronto couldn’t build on its strong start.
“We couldn’t generate anything,” Giguere said. “We were lackadaisical.”
Toronto coach Ron Wilson said his team lost its momentum with its “horrible” execution on two power-play opportunities in the second.
“Then in the third, our tank was empty,” Wilson said.
Reimer stopped 18 shots before he was shaken up early in the second period when he was hit on his helmet by the knee of Atlanta’s Evander Kane, who was called for goaltender interference.
Reimer, who has been a key to the Maple Leafs’ surge since the all-star break, remained in the game for about two minutes before he skated to the bench, leaving with a 2-0 lead. After the game, the team said Reimer was held out as a precautionary move.
Giguere gave up Ladd’s power-play goal only 23 seconds into the third period and Stapleton beat Giguere at 15:24 to tie the game. Stapleton’s rebound followed an attack by Zach Bogosian and Kane.
Giguere, who finished with 22 saves, called Ladd’s goal “the momentum swing.”
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay, whose team had dropped 16 of 19 coming in, said he told his players before the third period they were “doing everything correctly.”
“They just needed to believe, trust and believe,” Ramsay said. “That was our theme for today. … Just continue to do what you’re doing, and good things will happen.”