Garnet Exelby’s first goal of the season glanced off Skrastins and went right past goalie Jose Theodore, who was pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots in the first period. Theodore had no shot at Exelby’s goal, which gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead and followed goals from Brad Larsen and Vyacheslav Kozlov. Those weren’t entirely Theodore’s fault, either.
Bobby Holik set up the Thrashers’ first goal two minutes into the game when Ossi Vaananen fanned on his pass in the slot to Larsen, who one-timed it past Theodore. John-Michael Liles was late picking up Kozlov when he took Marian Hossa’s pass from behind the net and scored his 18th goal of the season.
Hossa and Kozlov each had two goals and two assists.
After Peter Budaj replaced Theodore in net to start the second period, Hossa scored his 32nd goal, then fed Kozlov again on the power play to give Atlanta a 5-1 lead.
Skrastins’ 207 blocked shots were second in the NHL last season and his 147 entering Thursday night’s game ranked third this season. Yet, he was late getting over to defend the play when Hossa skated in unchecked and flipped the puck over Budaj’s right shoulder for a 4-0 advantage.
Ian Laperriere’s goal past Kari Lehtonen – who recorded a season-best 45 saves – got Colorado on the board a minute later, but Kozlov’s second goal made it 5-1 heading into the third period, when Jordan Leopold and Paul Stastny each scored on the power play for Colorado.
The Avs yanked Budaj with 2:17 left, and Hossa scored his second goal into an empty net at 18:05.
Skrastins broke Horton’s NHL record for consecutive games by a defenceman when he played in his 487th straight in the regular season. The Avs honoured him with a pre-game video tribute that included images of the late Horton, who played from 1950-74, mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Skrastins came out and took a bow as spinning “487” images were shined on the ice. He was joined by his wife, Zane, two of Horton’s four daughters and general manager Francois Giguere during the short ceremony.
Since joining the NHL in 1999 in Nashville, Skrastins, who grew up in Latvia’s capital city of Riga, has missed just one game, on Feb. 18, 2000, when he sat out against St. Louis because of a shoulder injury.
Just three days later, he started his ironman streak – on the 26th anniversary of Horton’s death in an automobile accident outside St. Catharines, Ont.
Horton’s record was established from Feb. 11, 1961, to Feb. 4, 1968. Horton was still commuting from Toronto while playing for the Buffalo Sabres when he was killed in a one-car accident on Feb. 21, 1974, while on his way home from a game. He was 44.
The overall NHL record for consecutive games played is 964 set by Doug Jarvis over 13 seasons from 1975-87.
Notes: Avs forward Brad May, who has been out the entire season with a shoulder injury, was activated from the injured list. May, who missed Colorado’s two best scoring opportunities in the first period, was hurt Sept. 25 in a pre-season game against Detroit and underwent reconstructive surgery three days later. … Colorado reassigned F Antti Laaksonen to Albany of the AHL. … Lehtonen faced a season-high 48 shots.