Thrashers rally, move into playoff spot with shootout win

BOSTON (AP) -- The Atlanta Thrashers might look back on a shootout in Boston as the springboard for their first trip to the NHL playoffs.

Jim Slater scored in the fourth extra shootout session Tuesday night, lifting the surging Thrashers to a 5-4 victory over the sliding Bruins.

The Thrashers, who won for the seventh time in nine games, set a franchise record with their 34th win. They leapfrogged Montreal and moved into eighth place -- the postseason cutoff -- in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens lost 3-1 at the New York Islanders earlier Tuesday.

The Bruins have dropped eight of 10.

Atlanta trailed by two goals in the final period, sending the game to overtime on Steve McCarthy's score with 1:08 left in regulation. McCarthy lifted a high backhand shot past goalie Tim Thomas' stick side.

"We pulled out two points, which is huge," McCarthy said.

Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen was excited with his team's rally.

"It was just amazing how we played that last period. We turned it around. I was very confident in overtime because we were playing so well," Lehtonen said. "When we didn't score in overtime I was a little worried because basically I didn't do anything for the last 25 minutes. It's just nice to make some saves and get the two points."

The Thrashers outshot the Bruins 21-4 in the third period and overtime.

"It's just another important win. They're all big wins. We're desperate," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We didn't get the start [of the game] we were looking for. But we got back to our game and got some great goals. Tonight is just another two points and there's a lot of hockey to be played."

Bobby Holik scored on a slap shot from the slot with 7:15 left, making it 4-3.

Slava Kozlov, Atlanta's second shootout shooter, gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead in the tiebreaker, but Glen Murray tied it by slipping a backhander by Lehtonen on Boston's final regulation shot.

Slater then put a backhander under Thomas' pads to put Atlanta back on top, and Brad Stuart fired over the net on the Bruins' final attempt to give Atlanta the win. The Bruins fell to 1-7 in

shootouts, and the Thrashers improved to 5-4.

Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists for the Bruins.

"Well, it's discouraging, no question," a visibly upset Boston coach Mike Sullivan said. "We felt like we were in control of the game, which we were."

The Bruins, playing in front of about a half-filled arena, took a 1-0 lead just 2:14 in when Bergeron scored off the rebound of Brad Boyes' shot. Boyes fired a wrister from the slot, and the puck bounced over Lehtonen before Bergeron backhanded it into the net.

Boston made it 2-0 on Marco Sturm's power-play score 17:14 into the period. Sturm one-timed a shot from the right circle that

caromed in off the left post after he took a cross-ice pass from Boyes.

"We were playing a good game and beating the team that's been charging lately so it wasn't hard to get the morale up before the game or during, it's just low now," Thomas said.

Brad Larsen's shorthanded goal cut it to 2-1 late in the second period before the Bruins made it 3-1 on Murray's power-play score when Boston had a five-on-three advantage.

Marc Savard's power-play goal 2:47 into the third cut it to 3-2, but Mariusz Czerkawski restored Boston's two-goal lead at 9:01.

Lehtonen, who made 20 saves in a 5-0 win over Buffalo on Monday, stopped 27 shots before the shootout. Thomas made 36 saves.Game notes
Bergeron earned his 100th career point on Boston's third goal. ... Sturm had a goal disallowed late in the second period when he batted an attempted clearing pass out of the air and into the net. It was immediately waved off -- and upheld after a review --

because his stick was above his shoulders. ... Atlanta center Serge Aubin missed his second straight game with a leg injury sustained in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia. ... Thrashers right winger Marian Hossa missed his second straight game with flu symptoms.