Sure it’s only four games into the season, but the well-rested Atlanta Thrashers are already making the NHL take notice.
The Thrashers have played the fewest games in the league and are making the most of it. Evander Kane scored 1:36 into the third period to snap a tie, and Rich Peverley had two power-play goals against Martin Brodeur in Atlanta’s 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Atlanta hadn’t played since Saturday and showed rust in the first period when the Devils held a 15-4 shots advantage. The Thrashers kept the game scoreless, however, until they found their legs in the second.
“We started off a little slow, probably a little bit had to do with that time off, but we got better and better every period,” forward Colby Armstrong said.
Doing damage without any contributions on the score sheet from captain Ilya Kovalchuk, the Thrashers shook off a 1-0 deficit. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves in his fourth straight start in place of injured Kari Lehtonen. At this rate, backup Johan Hedberg might not get a chance to play anytime soon.
“I don’t look around because I can’t control those things,” Pavelec said. “All I can control is my effort and my play.
“If you’re winning, you don’t feel tired.”
Peverley tied it in the second with his first power-play goal of the night, and pushed the lead to two 5:55 into the third with another man-advantage tally. Peverley has four goals this season, three on the power play.
Chris Thorburn sealed the win with a short-handed goal with 3:11 left.
“The overall team effort in the second half of the game was stellar,” Peverley said. “We took advantage of the chances we got.
“That just shows the kind of depth we have. We have tremendous players on every line that can score. That’s important. (Kovalchuk) scores a lot, but when he doesn’t score it’s nice to know other guys can chip in,”
Travis Zajac and Zach Parise scored for the Devils, who had a three-game winning streak broken and fell to 0-3 at home. New Jersey (3-3) swept a three-game trip through the Southeast Division – in which Atlanta is a member – before returning home.
“This one was not good at all,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Brodeur, making his sixth consecutive start, stopped 15 shots and fell to 20-9-8 against Atlanta. He had won six of the previous eight meetings (6-1-1). The Thrashers were the opponent last season when Brodeur injured his left elbow and was forced to miss 50 games.
New Jersey went 0 for 6 on the power play, including three chances after falling behind. The Devils cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:50 left on Parise’s goal, but couldn’t build off it.
They will again look for their first home win Saturday against Carolina, the team that beat them in New Jersey in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series last season.
“I don’t know that it’s anything different we’re doing, it’s just three games we’re not playing well at home,” Parise said. “We played three good games on the road.”
The Thrashers (3-1) have won two of the first three games of their five-game trip that continues Saturday in Ottawa.
“We’ve kind of had a weird schedule here, maybe one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever seen,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had so much time off, it doesn’t even feel like the season has really started. I felt like we were playing our first game again.”
Kane got past Devils defenceman Cory Murphy along the left wing boards and then ripped a shot past Brodeur to make it 2-1. The 18-year-old Kane, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, has two goals and an assist in his first four games.
The Thrashers tied it 1-1 nearly seven minutes after Zajac’s goal on their first power-play chance. With the Devils short-handed, following a too many men on the ice penalty, Peverley fired in a rebound of Maxim Afinogenov’s shot with 5:03 left.
Brodeur had stopped 45 straight Atlanta shots in a shutout streak of 126 minutes, 54 seconds over three games before Peverley finally got a puck past him.
Zajac scored for the fourth time in five games, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead 8:07 into the second period.
NOTES: Kovalchuk scored five goals in the Thrashers’ first three games. His six points in that span marked the best start of his NHL career. … Devils D Bryce Salvador and captain Jamie Langenbrunner each had two assists. … Thorburn’s previous goal was scored March 8.