ATLANTA – Ondrej Pavelec showed that he’s all the way back. The Atlanta Thrashers are also feeling a lot better, too.
Pavelec won for the first time since collapsing early in the season opener, making 32 saves in the Thrashers’ 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old goalie collapsed two minutes into the opener Oct. 8 against Washington and sustained a concussion when the back of his head hit the ice. He missed more than two weeks and lost once in regulation and twice in shootouts before beating the Wild.
“For me, it was the best game for sure, because I finally got the win,” Pavelec said. “It was a great team effort. They played really well in front of me and didn’t give up a lot of scoring chances.”
Andrew Ladd and Fredrik Modin each had a goal and an assist to help the Thrashers end a three-game losing streak and snap Minnesota’s winning streak at three games.
Ben Eager, Jim Slater and Nik Antropov also scored for the Thrashers, and Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom each had two assists.
“We played solid all the way through,” Modin said. “(Pavelec) played really well.”
Antti Miettinen scored a power-play goal for the Wild in the third period to avoid the team’s first shutout of the season and prevent Pavelec from getting the third of his career shutout.
“It’s important to get that first win and get it under your belt,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said about Pavelec. “He was strong.”
Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom gave up the five goals on 34 shots in the loss that matched Minnesota’s worst of the season.
“I felt there were a couple of goals that were too easy for them,” Wild coach Todd Richards said.
Backstrom came in with a 1.80 goals-against average, but the Thrashers had a 2-0 lead before the game was 14 minutes old. Eager scored from in front on a pass from Modin less than four minutes in and Slater backhanded in a rebound after a shot from the point by Byfuglien.
The Thrashers got the game’s first eight shots and set the tone early.
“I don’t think we played as well in the first period as we would have liked to and I think we were caught off guard,” Richards said.
The Thrashers went up 3-0 with 45 second left in the second period. Rich Peverley came from behind the net to Backstrom’s left and slid the puck across the crease to Ladd, who easily put in his sixth goal of the season.
“Sometimes you have to be there to make the save,” Backstrom said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case tonight. We have to be a lot sharper in our end. Usually, we’re very good when it comes to things like that. But we weren’t good.”
The Wild ruined Pavelec’s shutout bid three minutes into the third period when Miettinen deflected in Brent Burns’ power-play shot from the right circle. But it was the Thrashers who scored on Minnesota’s next power play, with Modin getting a short-handed goal off a pass from Tobias Enstrom.
“That third goal was a killer and that short-handed goal was a killer,” Richards said.
Antropov scored with five minutes remaining to pad the Thrashers’ lead.
“I think it was a really solid game,” Ramsay said. “We’ve started to chart battles won and lost. We were well ahead in won battles.”
NOTES: Miettinen returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing five games because of a concussion. RW Chuck Kobasew, LW Guillaume Latendresse and D Marek Zidlicky are still out with groin injuries and didn’t make the Wild’s trip, which continues with games at Florida on Friday and Tampa Bay on Sunday. To help fill in, Minnesota called up C Cody Almond from Houston (AHL). … Atlanta C Bryan Little missed his sixth game because of a concussion. He is practising and could be back in the lineup as early as this weekend. The Thrashers host Pittsburgh on Saturday and play at Washington on Sunday.