BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jason Williams and the Thrashers didn’t need a pep talk between the second and third periods. They knew exactly what to do themselves.
Williams scored his second goal of the game 48 seconds into overtime, and Bryan Little had two goals and an assist in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
A night after Atlanta coach John Anderson let his team have it after the Thrashers were down by two after 40 minutes against the New York Islanders, Williams and his teammates made sure Friday’s third period was just as good as Thursday’s when they scored three times to win.
“Guys were reminding each other that we came back from two goals last night, so there was no reason why we couldn’t do it again,” said Williams, who while on the power play lifted a rebound off a shot from Ilya Kovalchuk over goalie Ryan Miller to give Atlanta its third straight victory. “We just wanted to make sure we battled hard. It was a good win, and we’ve got a little bit of a roll going.”
Williams goal was set up when Buffalo’s Derek Roy was whistled for tripping Atlanta defenceman Tobias Enstrom inside the Sabres zone.
“He hooked him first and then tripped him,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “He maybe got away with the first one, but not the second. It’s a penalty that has to be called.”
Todd White also scored for the Thrashers, who last won three straight in February. Atlanta (5-7-2) won for the first time in seven road games this season.
The Thrashers have beaten Buffalo twice this season, including a 3-2 shootout win in Atlanta last month.
“We’re getting our confidence back,” said Little. “We’re starting to turn it around, and we’re playing our game more.”
Slava Kozlov extended his points streak to five games with three assists, while goalie Johan Hedberg finished with 28 stops in making only his third appearance of the season for the Thrashers, who began the year with just two wins in 11 games.
“More than getting the win, we did a lot of positive things as a team,” Hedberg said. “We have to keep building off that every day.”
Thomas Vanek scored his NHL-leading 12th goal, and Clarke MacArthur, Ales Kotalik and Maxim Afinogenov also scored for the Sabres.
“They skated well and played simple hockey,” Kotalik said. “They got the bounces they needed.”
Miller, coming off consecutive shutouts of Washington and New Jersey, made 21 saves to fall to 7-1-2.
Buffalo welcomed back centre Jochen Hecht, who had missed the last 10 games because of a broken right middle finger.
With Atlanta down a goal after 40 minutes, White tied it on the power play eight minutes into the third, lifting a shot over Miller from the slot to make it 4-4.
The Thrashers opened the scoring just over four minutes in, as Williams snapped Miller’s 149-minute, 12-second shutout sequence with a wicked wrist shot from the slot.
MacArthur tied it four minutes later, and Kotalik put Buffalo ahead 2-1 with a power-play goal while Atlanta was down two men with 1:20 left in the first period.
Little tied it with his first of the game just under four minutes into the second period, sliding the puck underneath Miller while being hauled down by Sabres defenceman Toni Lydman.
Afinogenov notched his first of the season at 7:30 before Little knotted it 3-3 with his eighth of the year with five minutes to go in the middle period.
Fifty seconds later, Vanek gave the Sabres a 4-3 lead they took into the third when he deflected Tim Connolly’s slap shot from the middle of the blue line.
“We had our chances,” Roy said. “At the end of the game we missed two or three, and that was the critical time of the game to score.”
Notes: Prior to the game the Sabres placed C Matt Ellis on waivers in preparation to send him to Portland of the AHL. … Atlanta D Mathieu Schneider missed his second game because of a hip flexor. … The two teams won’t meet again until March 14 in Buffalo. … Hedberg improved to 9-2-1 lifetime against the Sabres.