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Lehtonen makes 35 saves as Thrashers blank Avalanche

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The Canadian Press
3/11/2009 1:04:12 AM
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DENVER - For the second time in three starts, Atlanta Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen skated off with a shutout.

Lehtonen stopped 35 shots in the Thrashers' 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night for his third shutout of the season and 14th of his NHL career.

He is 3-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average in his last three starts, including a 2-0 win over Montreal last Friday at home.

"I can't explain it," Lehtonen said of his strong recent play. "It isn't anything technical. I just feel comfortable, and the team in front of me has been comfortable with me."

Lehtonen's 14th NHL shutout helped the Thrashers improve to 8-4-1 in their last 13 games. The surge includes a two-game season sweep of the Avalanche, who lost for the seventh time in eight games. It was the eighth time this season Colorado was shut out.

"I thought Kari was solid all throughout the game," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "He had a great game the game before. So, when you're getting great goaltending, it makes the rest of the game a little easier."

Todd White and Zach Bogosian staked Atlanta to a 2-0 lead, and Rich Peverley added an empty-netter to seal the victory.

While Lehtonen's effort in the net was at the centre of the Avalanche's offensive frustration, they also had to deal with some tough luck.

Colorado got off 35 shots but saw a pair of solid shots by Milan Hejduk and Darcy Tucker hit the crossbar. Rookie Matt Hendricks also hit the post with a drive.

"It was close but not close enough," Hendricks said of his first-period near miss. "You can use those as excuses, but at the same time, you've got to make your own bounces. You've got to find the back of the net somehow.

"He's a great goaltender with a great size, but at the same time, he saw a lot of shots. We were not as aggressive as we had to be around the net battling for the rebounds."

The Thrashers took a 1-0 lead with 2:28 remaining in the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk shovelled the puck across the ice to Bogosian, whose slap shot from the middle of the right circle got past goalie Peter Budaj's glove.

With 0.6 seconds remaining in the period, the Thrashers scored again - a power-play goal from White. Budaj blocked White's first shot but lost control of the rebound, and White put in his 18th goal.

Budaj was pulled from the net with 1:42 left, and Peverley made it 3-0 39 seconds later.

Notes: Colorado's Tony Granato coached his 200th NHL game. ... Slava Kozlov has played 187 games in a row for the Thrashers, second in club history to Bobby Holik's 190 straight from March 1, 2006, to April 5, 2008. ... Hendricks made his NHL debut a day after being recalled from Lake Erie (AHL). He's the fourth Avalanche player to make his league debut this season. ... With two assists, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk extended his point scoring streak to seven games.

Kari Lehtonen (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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