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Colorado squanders five power plays

1/23/2004

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta goalie Pasi Nurminen had an unusually
quiet night against an unlikely opponent.

Nurminen made 20 saves and the Thrashers held Colorado's
NHL-leading power play scoreless in a 1-1 tie Thursday night.

The 21 shots Nurminen faced tied a season low for Atlanta, which
was facing the third-highest scoring team in the league.

"I kind of felt like I didn't have to do too much," he said.
"I can't say it was easy, but there have been harder games."

The Avalanche had converted 24 percent of their opportunities
with the man-advantage coming in, but they squandered five chances
against the Thrashers, including a brief five-on-three in the
second period.

That shouldn't be a surprise because the Thrashers lead the NHL
in penalty killing at home.

"This is the best game our defensemen played this year,"
Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "There's no rest playing against
these guys. We missed a couple of chances, but I think we generated
a lot and we kept their big guns pretty quiet."

Frantisek Kaberle gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead early in the first
period on a power play, and Brad Larsen tied it in the second. Both
goals came from unlikely scorers -- it was Kaberle's second of the
season and Larsen's third.

Colorado goalie David Aebischer made 20 saves.

"We started pretty sluggish," Larsen said. "I'm happy with
the point."

For Hartley, it was his second game against the team he led to
the Stanley Cup in 2001. He was fired by Colorado after a 10-8-9-4
start last season, and Atlanta hired him about a month later.

The Thrashers won the first meeting, a 4-3 victory in overtime
last February. In 4½ seasons with the Avalanche, Hartley was
198-118-48.

"I don't really look at the other bench," Aebischer said.
"We're just happy with the points we have this season, and the one
we got tonight."

Perhaps mindful of Hartley's presence, both teams played a
tight, physical game. Atlanta's Ben Simon came charging out of the
penalty box in the first period and leveled Andrei Nikolishin,
stealing the puck in the process.

"It was a pretty physical game," Hartley said. "We have a
couple of physical guys, and so do they. The referees did a great
job of controlling the game. It was getting a little chippy."

Colorado is 6-1-1 in its past eight games, and Atlanta has a
modest three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1).

"We're back on track," Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk
said. "We need to win a couple of more games before the All-Star
break and we'll be OK."

Kaberle gave the Thrashers the lead with eight seconds left on
the power play. Shawn McEachern dug out the puck in the corner,
then fed Kaberle between the circles. His wrist shot beat Aebischer
for a 1-0 lead.

Larsen tied it with a one-timer at the 6:16 of the second,
taking a pass from Milan Hejduk near the blue line and slapping the
puck through Nurminen's legs.

The Avalanche had their best chance to go ahead during that
20-second, two-man advantage in the second period. After they
failed to score, they still had another 30 seconds on the power
play, which they also wasted.

"You've got to take advantage of that," Colorado left wing
Alex Tanguay said. "It's up to us to move the puck around, and we
didn't really do that."

Another chance with the man-advantage early in the final period
disappeared without a shot, and Colorado was called twice for
offsides.

Game notes
Thrashers D Garnet Exelby left in the first period because
of a hip contusion and didn't return. One of only six players on
the team to play in every game this season, he has seven assists.
... The Avalanche will finish a four-game road trip Saturday in
Pittsburgh. They return home for one game, then hit the road again
for two.