ATLANTA – Craig Anderson is enjoying his fresh start in Ottawa, even playing for the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Anderson made 42 saves and Nick Foligno scored the clinching goal with just under 9 minutes remaining Thursday night, giving the Ottawa Senators a 3-1 victory over the fading Atlanta Thrashers.
Acquired two weeks ago from Colorado in a swap of struggling goaltenders, Anderson has thrived since taking over in net for the Senators. He's won four of six starts with a sparkling .966 save percentage, giving up only seven goals while facing 204 shots.
"Anytime you get a fresh start, that's good," Anderson said. "Not many guys get a restart like this. I look at it as a handout."
Then there's the Thrashers, whose playoff took another crushing blow with their 11th loss in the last 13 games. They dropped seven points out of the final playoff spot, trailing the eighth-place New York Rangers.
"It was very somber in the room," coach Craig Ramsey said. "That was a game we felt we should win."
The Thrashers lost again despite outshooting Ottawa 43-27. Anderson turned aside three breakaways and one last shot at the horn, giving the Senators their fourth win in six games.
This has become a familiar theme for Atlanta, which has gotten off more than 40 shots in five straight games — and has just three points to show for it. During than span, the Thrashers have managed only seven goals on 214 shots.
"When you're going through these stretches, the key issue probably is to try to score a couple early and get everybody on a roll, get everybody feeling good about what's going on, not saying, 'Oh my God, here we go again,'" Ramsey said.
Even though they're just playing out the season, the Senators want to ride on Anderson's back as long as they can.
"Craig is in a zone right now," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "They were putting a lot of pucks and bodies at the net."
Colin Greening scored the only goal through the first two periods, and that on a shot that deflected off the skate of Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.
Bobby Butler made it 2-0 a minute into the third, before Byfuglien gave the Thrashers hope with his 19th goal. But Foligno clinched it on a deflection of Derek Smith's shot from the point.
The Thrashers kept firing away at Anderson, but the only shot to get past him was Byfuglien's low drive from the point at 6:46 of the third with all kinds of traffic in front of the net.
With the sparse crowd finally showing signs of life, Atlanta kept the pressure on but couldn't come up with the equalizer. Finally, Foligno's 11th goal finished off any hope of a comeback, the puck skidding past goalie Chris Mason.
Atlanta put 16 shots on goal in the opening period alone, but it was Ottawa getting the only goal off a fluke play. Mason had made the initial save on Brian Lee, and Greening picked off the rebound and fired toward the goal. It appeared to be headed wide, only to catch Byfuglien's blade and ricochet into the net.
Butler's goal was totally legit. He swept in off the left wing and beat Mason with a perfectly placed shot in the top right corner over the glove hand.
NOTES: There were only four penalties called in the game. Two came in a would-be fight between enforcers Francis Lessard of Ottawa and Eric Boulton of Atlanta. They dropped the gloves but wound up skating around each other for several seconds, both cautious about throwing the first punch. Finally, Boulton lunged at Lessard and they tumbled to the ice. The refs didn't even bother calling a fighting penalty, sending them both off for roughing. ... The crowd was announced at 10,461, but there appeared to be no more than 5,000 in Philips Arena. ... Atlanta dropped to 2-5-2 this season when getting off at least 40 shots.
(This version CORRECTS Senators 3, Thrashers 1. Corrects to Derek Smith instead of Zack Smith in 13th paragraph.)