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Thrashers drop sixth straight
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save on an attempt by Atlanta Thrashers left wing Eric Boulton (36) during the first period Wednesday in Boston. - photo by By Elise Amendola

BOSTON — Byron Bitz tipped in a shot to start Boston’s three-goal first period and the Bruins warmed up for the outdoor Winter Classic with a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night.

The Bruins won for the fourth time in five games heading into the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day game on Friday when they will play the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park.

But first they took care of the Thrashers for the second time in eight days, handing them their sixth straight loss. They drove goalie Ondrej Pavelec from the game in the first period both times.

Pavelec was lifted 10:52 into the first game after allowing three goals in a 1:08 span in Boston’s 6-4 win.

On Wednesday, he lasted 16:50 and left after Steve Begin’s first goal in 30 games and third of the season made it 3-0 on the Bruins’ 10th shot.

Johan Hedberg took over both times and played very well Wednesday when he stopped 12 shots before Patrice Bergeron scored his 11th goal of the season at 14:56 of the second period, making it 4-0.

Bergeron, the Bruins’ leading scorer with 30 points, was selected to the Canadian Olympic hockey team Wednesday.

Tuukka Rask got his second shutout of the season and blanked the team that was tied for second in goals per game with 3.2.
But he faced just 18 shots, the fewest allowed by the Bruins this season.

Rask is 10-3-2 as the backup to Tim Thomas, who is expected to start Friday afternoon at Fenway, although the forecast calls for morning rain that may taper off as the game approaches. Thomas could be named to the U.S. Olympic team when it’s announced after the outdoor game.

In the previous two Winter Classics, Pittsburgh beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008 and Detroit beat Chicago at Wrigley Field in 2009.

On Wednesday, Bitz began the scoring with his fourth goal of the season when he redirected Shawn Thornton’s shot from the left boards past Pavelec.

Marco Sturm scored for the third straight game 6 minutes later after Marc Savard’s hard shot from the right faceoff circle hit the post with Zdeno Chara and Sturm in front of the crease. The puck went to Sturm, who poked in his team leading 13th goal.

Begin scored from the slot when a shot by Derek Morris from the right point hit his left thigh and was redirected past Pavelec. After a video review, the goal was allowed.

NOTES: Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk had his scoring streak stopped at 10 games, matching his career high. ... Four of Atlanta’s losses during its streak were by one goal. ... The Bruins are 3-0 against the Thrashers this season with one meeting left.

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