NHL Game Summary - Buffalo at Atlanta
(Sunday, March 18th)
Final Score: Atlanta 4, Buffalo 3 (OT)
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Keith Tkachuk's power-play goal with 38 seconds left in overtime lifted the Atlanta Thrashers to a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Philips Arena.
Buffalo started the extra frame with a power play as Tkachuk was issued a slashing call as time expired in regulation, but the Sabres were unable to take advantage and with 1:14 remaining in overtime Jaroslav Spacek was called for holding Ilya Kovalchuk.
Atlanta brought the puck into the Buffalo end and Alexei Zhitnik sent a pass from the high slot to Slava Kozlov, who used a touch pass to get the puck to the slot where Tkachuk fired a wrister into the right corner of the net to win the game.
Zhitnik finished the game with a goal and two assists and Kovalchuk and Eric Belanger each had a goal for Atlanta, which has won three of its last four games, including consecutive overtime wins.
Kari Lehtonen finished the game with 35 saves for the Thrashers, who have 88 points and hold a six-point lead over Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.
"We have a long way to go," said Tkachuk. "We have to focus on our game. Obviously it's a huge step getting six points ahead but there is a long way to go. It was exciting beating a team like Buffalo."
Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy each had a goal and an assist and Ryan Miller made 27 saves for the Sabres, who finished a four-game road trip with a 2-0-2 mark.
Buffalo holds a five-point lead over New Jersey for first place in the Eastern Conference.
"We feel if we can stay out of the box it would have been a different game," said Miller. "It's unfortunate, a bad bounce, Spacek makes a decision on what to do and he tried to buy as much time as he could and ended up getting a holding penalty. I give the refs the benefit of the doubt on that one. Both sides seem to get some bad calls tonight, but overall we just need to stay out of the box in a game like this."
Atlanta drew first blood in the game with a 5-on-3 goal when Kovalchuk's slap shot from the top of the right circle found the back of the net just 3:50 in.
Buffalo, though, tied the game a little over two minutes later when, on a 2- on-1 rush, Roy slid a pass from the left circle to the slot where Drew Stafford's wrist shot beat Lehtonen on the glove side.
The Thrashers grabbed a 2-1 lead with 4:24 left in the first. With Buffalo attacking in the Atlanta end, a defenseman pinched in to help, but the move backfired as Atlanta cleared the zone and Belanger picked up the puck and skated into the Buffalo end on a 2-on-1. Belanger faked a slap shot and from the inside left circle let fly with a wrister that went into the left corner of the net for his 16th goal of the campaign.
Buffalo was skating hard in the second period to tie the game and were rewarded for its effort when Teppo Numminen flicked a shot on net from the right point that Vanek, who was parked in front, tipped between the pads of Lehtonen with 4:12 left in the frame.
Miller stopped all nine shots he faced in the middle stanza.
Buffalo's Adam Mair took a foolish cross-checking call to give the Thrashers a power play and the team took advantage as Niclas Havelid slid a pass from the left point to the right point where Zhitnik unleashed a one-timer that beat Miller over the glove 7:45 into the third period for a 3-2 lead.
The Sabres, though, tied the game less than five minutes later as Henrik Tallinder unleashed a shot from the top of the left circle that hit off the helmet of Lehtonen and, as the goaltender was laying dazed on the ice, Roy grabbed the loose puck at the right side of the net and slammed it home with 7:35 left in regulation.
"It hit me in the ear and I was out for just enough time for them to score," said Lehtonen about the goal. "Just a lucky bounce for them. We didn't get the rebound and they scored right away."
Atlanta has off until Thursday when it will host San Jose...Buffalo returns home to face Washington on Wednesday...Each team won two games in the season- series...Atlanta went 3-for-5 on the power play and killed all five of Buffalo's power play opportunities.
03/18 17:17:01 ET