ATLANTA – The Boston Bruins made quick work of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists to extend his NHL-best points streak to 14 games, and the Bruins scored four times on their first five shots in a 7-3 victory over Atlanta on Friday night. Boston was coming off a 3-1 loss in Washington on Wednesday night that snapped a five-game winning streak.
“We got the jump on them early,” Kessel said. “It was nice to get a lot of guys on the scoreboard.”
Kessel had an assist in the first-period spree, then added a power-play goal and another assist in the third period. He leads Boston with 18 goals and has 11 assists.
Defenceman Mark Stuart had two goals for the Bruins, scoring the first and last goals to help Boston match its highest-scoring game of the season. Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, Stephane Yelle and Milan Lucic also scored.
The Bruins are 15-2-1 since the end of October and have a seven-point lead over second-place Montreal in the Northeast Division.
Boston ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 home victory over Atlanta on Oct. 25 and has been on a roll since.
“There are a lot of good things going on,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It’s nice to be where we are. The month of November really propelled us.”
Boris Valabik scored his first NHL goal for Atlanta, and Todd White and Slava Kozlov added goals. The Thrashers are 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.
Boston, which had been outshot 6-0, scored goals 37 seconds apart on its first two shots. Stuart converted a feed from David Krejci at 3:31, and Yelle’s beat Ondrej Pavelec between the pads at 4:08.
“It was one of those game where I wouldn’t have stopped a beach ball,” Pavelec said. “If I want to play in the NHL, I have to be better than that.”
Chara scored on a wraparound at 8:41 off a pass from Kessel, and Pavelec was pulled in favour of Johan Hedberg after giving up three goals on four shots. Hedberg didn’t start off much better than Pavelec, allowing Ryder’s power-play goal at 11:56 on the first shot he faced.
White scored a power-play goal for Atlanta at 16:16 of the first period, knocking a deflected shot from the point by Ilya Kovalchuk past goalie Tim Thomas.
Atlanta’s Joey Crabb drew a boarding penalty and game misconduct for a hit on Kessel with 2:20 left in the second period, and Kessel cashed in the five-minute power play with his goal at 1:15 of the third period.
“Obviously you don’t want to get hit from behind,” Kessel said. “It’s dangerous. I don’t think he tried to hurt me, but you can’t run someone through the boards like that.”
Valabik scored his first NHL goal unassisted at 3:14 of the final period, blasting in a shot from the point. But the defenceman was victimized on a Boston goal at 7:19 of the period when Lucic’s pass went off him and into the net.
Pavelec returned to replace Hedberg in goal after Stuart scored on a shot from the point with 9:57 left in the game.
Kozlov scored on a power-play goal for Atlanta with seven minutes remaining. Kovalchuk, pick up his second assist of the game on the play, giving him 33 points in 26 career games against the Bruins.
“It was just one of those nights,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “I’m not sure we can afford to have one of those nights, but they happen.”
Notes: Boston D Aaron Ward and C Petteri Nokelainen left the game in the first period and didn’t return. … Manny Fernandez, 5-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average lifetime against Atlanta, is expected to start in goal for the Bruins in the rematch Saturday night in Boston. … The Bruins and Thrashers play three times in 17 days, with a game in Atlanta on Dec. 28. … RW Colin Stuart, the brother of the Boston defenceman, was called up by the Thrashers from Chicago of the AHL on Thursday, but didn’t play.