ATLANTA – For Andrew Ladd, facing the Detroit Red Wings is never easy.
“No,” the Atlanta captain said. “It’s always fun. They beat us pretty good during my first year with the Blackhawks, so they’re a good team. Now as a Thrasher, we have a young group of guys that were up for this game. We wanted to show everyone what we can do.”
Ladd scored shorthanded and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien added a power-play goal to help Atlanta win its third straight game, 5-1 over the Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Anthony Stewart, Chris Thorburn and Bryan Little also scored for Atlanta, and Ondrej Pavelec won his third consecutive start with 32 saves.
“Our focus is being sound defensively,” Ladd said. “There are little details on the defensive side that lead to turnovers for the other team and offensive plays for us.”
Todd Bertuzzi scored for Detroit. The Western Conference-leading Red Wings have a two-game road losing streak, but have won eight of their last 11 overall.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock pulled goalie Jimmy Howard after two periods, replacing him with Joey MacDonald. Howard, who stopped 26 shots, lost in regulation for just the second time in 30 regular-season starts dating to last season.
Babcock wasn’t upset with Howard as much as he was disappointed with Detroit’s overall effort. Unlike Sunday, when the Red Wings trailed Calgary by two goals in the third period before winning in overtime, they didn’t give themselves much of a chance after Byfuglien scored midway through the third.
“This has been coming,” Babcock said. “Our work ethic was not good. I don’t think anyone expected us to win 82 games, but we were not ready. When you give up 19 shots in the second period, you’re in trouble.”
Ladd’s eighth goal made it 2-0 after Rich Peverley stole the puck and fed his teammate at the bottom of the left circle at 11:59 of the first period.
Bertuzzi’s fourth goal, a wrister from the right circle, cut the lead to 2-1 just 19 seconds later on the power play.
Stewart’s sixth goal gave the Thrashers a 3-1 lead on the power play 1:50 into the second. Little assisted from the left circle with a pass across the slot.
“When our line played on (Detroit’s) end, I thought we moved the puck really well,” Little said. “I had more than option on that play, and Stew did a great job of finishing it.”
Little didn’t know if he would dress for the game after taking a shot off his foot Sunday from Byfuglien, but his fourth goal made it 4-1, beating Howard to the glove side with 3:35 left in the second period.
Byfuglien, who began the game tied for third among NHL defencemen in scoring, added his eighth goal, a slapshot on a 4-on-3 advantage, with 5:41 remaining.
Howard was accustomed to facing Ladd and Byfuglien last season before Chicago traded them to the Thrashers in July, but the Detroit goalie was facing Atlanta for the first time.
“It’s a different scenario,” Howard said. “When don’t see a team often, it’s different from when you see them three or four times a year, but that’s really no excuse for tonight.”
Thorburn put Atlanta ahead 1-0 with his fourth goal, a wrister from the slot, 2:39 into the first.
Pavelec, who began the game with the NHL’s second-best save percentage and third-best goals-against average, has stopped 136 of 141 shots over the last five games.
Detroit dropped to 26-5-4 in its last 35 regular-season games, dating to last season. The Red Wings will play four of their next five on the road.
NOTES: Red Wings RW Danny Cleary played 20 shifts despite after leaving Sunday’s win over Calgary following a hard collision. … The Thrashers improved to 4-9-0 in the series, 2-4-0 at Philips Arena. … Detroit has allowed three short-handed goals this season. … Red Wings G Chris Osgood missed his ninth game because of a groin injury, but hopes to return as Howard’s backup later this week.