Nothing peachy in Georgia; Atlanta beats Wild 5-1
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Thursday night's game at Phillips Arena in Atlanta started with Minnesota Wild fans looking for their team to move into a first place tie in the Northwest Division. It ended with their team looking for answers, as the Thrashers scored early and often, bringing the Wild's three-game winning streak to a screeching halt via a 5-1 win.
Atlanta scored all the goals it would eventually need in the opening 20 minutes, as Minnesota native Dustin Byfuglien set up a pair. The home team's lead had increased to 3-0 by the third period when the only Wild bright spot of the evening came.
On a power play, Antti Miettinen announced he was back (after missing five games with a lingering concussion) in a big way, tipping in a Brent Burns shot from the point that briefly pulled the Wild within two goals. Another Atlanta penalty shortly thereafter gave some hope that a comeback could be in the offing, but it was not to be. While killing the penalty, Fredrik Modin was able to sneak behind Wild captain Miiko Koivu and to the front of the Wild net, where he swatted in a pass from Tobias Enstrom.
In an instant, the Wild's three-goal deficit was back, and the three-game winning streak was history.
"A couple goals were just too easy for them," Wild coach Todd Richards told reporters afterward. "In the first period we were caught off guard but still we were able to get back into the game."
It was a night of many rarities for the Wild, who had never before lost a game in regulation in Atlanta, going 3-0-1 there previously. And the loss wasn't due to an intimidating atmosphere inside the rink. Hockey is an increasingly tough sell in Atlanta to start with, and with the Atlanta Falcons playing next door at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night, the announced hockey crowd of just over 10,000 looked inflated by a good measure.
The long-term bright spot for the Wild may be the return of Miettinen, who worked his way onto the top live after being out of the lineup since a late October loss to the Kings in St. Paul. In that game, Dustin Brown gave Miettinen a shot to the head from which the forward needed more than a week to recover. Despite the return and the goal, Miettinen was in no mood for positive spin afterward.
"It doesn't really matter. We lost 5-1 and I was a minus-3, so I should have been a lot better," Miettinen told Kevin Gorg of FSN North.
A Wild win and a Vancouver loss on Thursday would have meant the Wild sharing first place in the Northwest Division for the first time since they won the five-team division in 2008. Instead, there is little time to dwell on the loss, as the southern swing continues Friday night when the Wild visits the Florida Panthers.