Someone in Atlanta should give Antero Nittymaki the key to the city. From AP-
Ilya Kovalchuk couldn’t break Antero Niittymaki’s “curse” on the Atlanta Thrashers. Instead, the Thrashers captain broke his stick in frustration.
Niittymaki stopped 26 shots for his 16th straight win over Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Thrashers 2-1 on Tuesday night for a rare road victory.
Stephane Veilleux and Martin St. Louis scored first-period goals and Niittymaki protected the lead, giving up only a second-period goal to Todd White.
“Sometimes you get a game like that where you can’t get a goal behind,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “The curse continues, I guess. A little frustrating.”
Kovalchuk, the Thrashers’ star who is the subject of trade rumors, broke his stick against the net at the end of the game. He has no goals in the three games against Niittymaki this season.
Niittymaki improved to 13-9-5 overall this season. He is 5-1-1 in his last seven games.
The Lightning improved to 4-1 against the Thrashers this season with their fourth straight win in the series, including three victories with Niittymaki in the net.
Niittymaki, in his first season with the Lightning after five with Philadelphia, improved to 11-0 at Philips Arena.
Tampa has split its goaltending duties between Nittymaki and Mike Smith, but if I were Rick Tocchet I’d hand the job to Nittymaki. His stats(2.47 GAA and .918 save pct) is far better than Smith’s (2.97 and .904).
As for Nittymaki’s mastery over the Thrashers, some players get so hut against a particular team it starts getting into people’s heads. I know it did when I played high school sports and competitive chess. Some teams or players always appeared unbeatable.
Tampa(23-21-11 57 pts) and Atlanta(24-23-8-56) are both in the midst of the 8-team Eastern Conference playoff shuffle. One point separates the teams but the Lightning stand in 8th place and Atlanta 11th. I expect alot more movement between now and April.
The Kovalchuk saga in Atlanta is playing out similarly to what went on between the Florida Panthers and Jay Bouwmeester last season. Will Atlanta trade their best player or do what Florida did, keep him for a playoff push? I think Kovalchuk will end the 2009-10 season in Atlanta but will be playing somewhere else in the NHL next season.
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