ATLANTA — Asked about Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, Boston coach Claude Julien says “everything is going his way.”
Byfuglien isn’t about to disagree.
“It means the team’s doing something right,” Byfuglien said. “Everyone’s buying in. We’re back-checking hard.”
Byfuglien had a goal and three assists, and Ondrej Pavelec made 40 saves to help the Atlanta Thrashers win their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Bruins on Sunday night.
Pavelec made 16 saves in the second period. During the winning streak, he has stopped 201 of 207 shots. Byfuglien has complemented the goalie with nine points, including four goals, over the same span.
“We have to back each other up,” Byfuglien said. “We’re not afraid to go in and stand up for each other.”
Atlanta, which has outscored opponents 19-3 over its last five, led 3-0 by the 14:42 mark of the first period on goals by Evander Kane, Byfuglien and Jim Slater.
Blake Wheeler’s wrister 12:22 into the second cut it to 3-1, but Niclas Bergfors scored on a power play by redirecting Byfuglien’s slap shot with 13 seconds left in the period.
The Bruins, who had a 10-game winning streak against Atlanta, have dropped two straight overall and are winless in four of their last five.
Tuukka Rask, giving No. 1 Bruins goalie Tim Thomas the night off, fell to 1-6-1 after losing his second straight start. He stopped 22 shots as Boston dropped to 0-5-2 this season when trailing after one period.
“I let in four goals,” Rask said. “I do not give us a chance to win. To go down three goals in the first makes it hard to come back.”
Kane made opened the scoring with his ninth goal, a wrister from the bottom of left slot at the 8:32 mark.
The next two goals came in a span of 2:50.
Byfuglien put the Thrashers ahead 2-0 with a shot from the left faceoff dot that beat Rask between the legs. Jim Slater’s third goal made it 3-0 after Byfuglien stole the puck along the right boards of the neutral zone.
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay isn’t surprised that Byfuglien, the centerpiece acquisition of Atlanta’s offseason, moved from third place to first as the NHL’s defensive scoring leader with 25 points.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien, traded to Atlanta in the offseason by Stanley Cup champion Chicago in a salary-cap move, leads all defensemen with nine goals.
“He’s up more than probably the vast majority of forwards,” Ramsay said. “He’s growing in the defensive zone, and that’s probably what I like better. When he gets in battles down low, he comes up with pucks and makes plays off it.”
Bergfors’ sixth goal came on a 4-on-3 advantage due to minor penalties on Daniel Paille for boarding and Shawn Thornton for roughing. Atlanta defenseman Ben Eager was penalized for roughing.
The Bruins, who won their first five road games, dropped to 8-3-0 away from TD Garden.
“We had 40 shots, but sometimes shots don’t mean much,” Julien said. “I figured we had 19 scoring chances, and all we had to show for it was one goal. We put ourselves out of the game with four turnovers in the first period.”
Pavelec, who began the night with the NHL’s third-best goals-against average and saves percentage, has made 12 straight appearances, including 10 starts.
Julien thought the Thrashers should’ve been called for offside on Byfuglien’s goal.
“I mentioned it to head linesman, and he was sarcastic,” Julien said. “You can bring it their attention. That’s all you can do.”
NOTES: Gloves came off twice in the second period, resulting in a pair of fighting majors for both teams. Atlanta’s Evander Kane landed four punches to Matt Hunwick’s head before Boston’s Shawn Thornton appeared to get the better of Eric Boulton. … Bruins C David Krejci and RW Jordan Caron did not make the trip because of the flu.