The Capitals pulled out a very wild victory tonight over the Atlanta Thrashers by a score of 6-4 in a game characterized by sloppy play by both teams and crazy bounces. With the win, the Caps extended their home win streak against Atlanta to nine consecutive contests, dating back to the 2008-2009 season.
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring for the home side with a wrist shot just 1:30 into the opening frame that Atlanta goalie Chris Mason stopped initially, but then batted in to his own cage. Mike Green scored next for the Caps on a power play, firing a shot past Mason to extend the lead to two. But the Thrashers continued to press, and scored a power play goal of their own off the stick of Rich Peverley to cut the deficit to one. The Caps came right back, with Ovechkin roaring down the left wing and firing a gorgeous saucer pass across the seam to Alex Semin, who made no mistake with the puck, deking Mason out of the goal before depositing the easy backhand tally. The teams headed for the their respective dressing rooms with Washington up 3-1. The second period caught the Caps on their heels, as Andrew Ladd scored from a seemingly impossible angle with the period barely a minute old. Once again, however, Washington countered immediately, with Matt Hendricks burying a Mike Green rebound and chasing Mason from the Atlanta net. This time it was the Thrashers' turn to answer, and they did so with a Bryan Little goal less than a minute later. After an epic fight between Eric Boulton and John Erskine, for which Boulton took an extra roughing minor, the Caps had a power play chance and an opportunity to put distance between them and their opponents. But Andrew Ladd stole the puck from Alex Ovechkin during a neutral zone regroup and walked in alone on Neuvirth, who made the initial stop, but conceded the equalizer after the puck bounced off his helmet and fell to Little, who pushed it in on his backhand. The Caps fell apart after that marker, constantly turning the puck over in their own zone, and were lucky to make it to the second intermission tied. After a tense beginning to the third period, John Erskine took advantage of a failed Atlanta clearing attempt to blast home a 65 foot slapshot that proved to be the game winner at the 13:11 mark. Dave Steckel closed out the scoring with an empty-netter from center ice at 19:23.
Player of the game: Dave Steckel. The fact that he was not selected for a star is embarrassing. Stecks was 14 for 17 on faceoffs and was the Caps' best penalty killer. He was blocking shots and created very well on the offensive side of the puck. It will be hard for Bruce Boudeau to pull him from the lineup after Boyd Gordon returns if he continues to play like this.
Overall, another lackluster performance from the Great 8. Ovie was held by his coach to under 18 minutes of ice time for the third consecutive game, the first time that has happened in over three years. His goal was pure luck, and although his assist was very nice, Ovechkin has had a bad couple of games, lacking responsibility in his own zone and giving up on the play too early.
Michal Neuvirth may be hitting the proverbial rookie wall. The young Czech has been terrific all season, and still has tremendous potential, but now has not allowed fewer than three goals in two weeks. He still picked up the win, and had some nice saves, but he would definitely like some goals back. The return of Semyon Varlamov will help him.
A final note unrelated to today's game - Semyon Varlamov started for Hershey today and picked up the victory. It is expected that he will rejoin his teammates tomorrow and may start Wednesday.
The Caps will most likely enjoy a day off tomorrow before returning to practice on Tuesday. Next game is scheduled for Wednesday, when the Sabres come to town. Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.
Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!