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Ryder helps Bruins edge Thrashers

By Phil Foley

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Michael Ryder and Manny Fernandez helped the

Boston Bruins continue their winning ways.

Ryder scored with 6:04 remaining in the third period to snap a

tie, enabling the Bruins to extend their winning streak to eight

games with a 2-1 victory over the hapless Atlanta Thrashers on

Sunday.

Phil Kessel netted his team-leading 22nd goal of the season and

Fernandez turned aside 32 shots as the red-hot Bruins matched

their longest winning streak since stringing together victories

over the final eight games of the 1992-93 campaign.

They have also won 13 of their last 14.

"You don't think about it," Kessel said of the streak. "You go

out there and play and try to do the little things right and get

better every game."

Bryan Little scored for the sixth time in three contests for the

Thrashers, who have one win in their last 11 games at home.

"It's frustrating," Little said. "We worked so hard all game

and they scored in the last few minutes. We played good. We

all had good chances, but they had good goaltending tonight."

Boston, which blew out Atlanta by a 16-9 margin in the first

three games of the season series, was mired in a 1-1 game until

the 28-year-old Ryder came through in the final session.

After David Krejci fed the Boston right wing a pass from just

inside the blue line, Ryder slid the puck between the pads of

Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen from the doorstep to give the

Bruins yet another win.

"It as kind of like a 2-on-1 break," Ryder said. "If I went to

the net, I knew Krejci would make the pass. I was just trying

to chip it up over the goalie."

Boston, which started the season a disappointing 2-2-3, began

its turnaround against Atlanta with a win on October 25. After

suffering its only setback in December to the Washington

Capitals on December 10, Boston began its most recent streak

with a pair of wins over the Thrashers.

On Sunday, the Bruins achieved the trifecta, defeating Atlanta

for the third time in 17 days and sweeping the season set for

the first time in franchise history.

"We have to understand that we're no longer under the radar,"

Boston blue-liner Aaron Ward said. "We're not going to sneak up

on anybody. Teams are well-prepared for us."

The Thrashers made things interesting in the game's final minute

as Chuck Kobasew drew a tripping penalty with 1:57 remaining.

But Fernandez shut the door, stopping Little's rebound attempt

and two other shots with Atlanta's man advantage.

"There were a bunch of guys in front," Fernandez said. "I

didn't see the first shot. I gave a bad rebound night on the

doorstep and had to make a desperation save. Some nights you

get those and some you don't. Tonight was a night that you

did."

Boston coach Claude Julien thought that his goaltender was good,

rather than lucky.

"I thought he was outstanding tonight," Julien said of

Fernandez. "(He made) a couple of those key saves late in the

game, and consecutive saves when he stuck with it. I thought he

definitely made a big difference tonight in our win."

Despite 27 saves from Lehtonen, the horrid Thrashers fell short

in "Blueland" once again, falling to 1-8-2 here since defeating

the Carolina Hurricanes on November 14.

"I think in terms of wins and losses, it doesn't feel very

good," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "They scored late in

the game. We had a chance to win or tie to break (their

streak)."

For a bit, it looked like it might be Atlanta's night as Little

got the Thrashers on the board with a little help from the

Boston defense.

Little attempted to find Atlanta left wing Ilya Kovalchuk with a

pass, but the puck bounced off of defenseman Matt Hunwick and

past Fernandez to give the Thrashers a 1-0 lead with 15 seconds

left in the first.

The lucky goal continued a torrid stretch for the Atlanta

center, who notched his first career hat trick in Atlanta's 5-4

loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

"As a team, we are getting a lot of chances," Little said. "The

bounces are going for me, but not as a team. We were with

(Boston) all game. Just a couple of mistakes and it's over."

But Kessel, Boston's 21-year-old sensation, drew the contest

even 1:43 into the second.

Kessel blasted a wrister from the high slot over the glove of

Lehtonen, tying the contest at 1-1. The Wisconsin-born Kessel

notched his career-best 38th point on the tally.

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