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Ice-cold Thrashers cool off red-hot Leafs

Monday, 16.12.2002 / 12:00 AM / News
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Ice-cold Thrashers cool off red-hot Leafs
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ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Pasi Nurminen may have earned himself some playing time for the Atlanta Thrashers.

Nurminen stopped 30 shots for his first career shutout and Brad Tapper scored the game's lone goal late in the third period as the Thrashers ended a six-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Atlanta acquired Byron Dafoe on November 20 to bolster its goaltending, but Dafoe has struggled in losing five straight.

The Thrashers turned to Nurminen and he delivered, including 11 saves in the second period as they killed off four power plays.

"It was a good day for me and our defense helped me out a lot," Nurminen said. "Some pucks hit the post, but luck can be a part of a good night in goal. We played real strong tonight against a good team. Games like this are what we need. This is the way we should play every night. "

The Thrashers did not manage much on offense but broke through with 3:42 left to play. Patrik Stefan worked the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk up the right side and the two exchanged passes.

Kovalchuk then fired the puck towards the net, where it appeared to hit the skate of a Toronto defender before a charging Tapper tapped it in. Tapper, who was recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League prior to the game, notched his first goal of the season and fifth of his career in his 37th NHL game.

"The defenseman had me all the way," Tapper said. "I felt it go off my foot. I looked down and it was in the net. I was just hoping they would drop the puck again so it would count."

Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour stopped 20 shots, but suffered his fourth loss in his last 15 starts.

The Maple Leafs got off to a slow start as they did not register a shot until 11 minutes were left in the first period. Toronto finished the period with a 9-7 edge in shots.

"It took us nine minutes to get our first shot tonight," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "Our power play did not execute. We had a few people playing and the rest were brain dead."

It was Atlanta's first shutout since a 2-0 victory over Colorado on March 12. The Thrashers improved to 5-5-1-1 all-time against the Maple Leafs.

"I don't know what it is about Toronto, but I wish I could dye everyone's jerseys blue," Atlanta coach Curt Fraser said. "Maybe that would help us.

Nurminen was the story in the second period. After Atlanta's Pascal Rheaume was whistled for interference, Toronto had a bunch of opportunities. The best was a chance by Mikael Renberg but Nurminen used his blocker to come across to his right and make the save.

The Thrashers' Andy Sutton was sent off for roughing on that exchange, giving the Maple Leafs a 5-on-3 advantage for about 28 seconds and Rheaume's penalty had just expired when Alexander Mogilny's blast from the right side was saved.

"We had a lot of chances, but you can't win the game with no goals," Mogilny said. "It was very disappointing. Their goalie played well, but it was just one of those nights for us."

"Pasi tonight was spectacular," Tapper said. "He is an unbelievable goalie - one of the fastest goalies I've seen in my three pro seasons. He always uses the glove no matter where he is, he's so fast."

The Leafs squandered a pair of chances in the third period as well. Tie Domi's shot was stopped by a falling Nurminen, who also foiled Robert Svehla from in close six minutes into the period.

Belfour faced far less activity as he saw seven shots in each period. Kovalchuk hit the crossbar with a wrister from the left side early in the third period and defenseman Frantisek Kaberle was stopped in close just over three minutes before Tapper's goal.
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