Scoresheet - Post - Times - AJC
It wasn't a perfect game, but the Caps will take the two points. Tomas Fleischmann opened the scoring again tonight against the Thrashers, boosting the forward's confidence before the post season. Even if it was a just pass that went off a defender and in the net, it is the second straight game where Flash has opened the scoring. It was the Caps' power play that thrived in the previous tilt, but tonight it was even strength efforts that helped the Capitals defeat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-2.
Flash finished the game with a goal and an assist giving him his second straight first star of the game. Viktor Kozlov, Alex Semin and Sergei Fedorov also scored. Fedorov's goal was initially credited to Alex Ovechkin, but on review Feds first shot did cross the goal line before Ovi tipped in the loose puck. Ovechkin keeps up his point pace with two assists and Nick Backstrom had a pair of assists as well. Backstrom made a pretty blind pass to Kozlov for the second Caps' goal. Backstrom's efforts earn him the number two star tonight.
All of the Capitals' goals were 5 on 5. In fact, the Thrashers only took one penalty. Meanwhile the Caps were whistled down for six infractions, all in the second and third penalties. The Caps power play did what was asked of them killing off all six chances. With only a single power play and taking a slew of bad penalties, it was hard to get anything going in the offensive department late in the game.
"When you run into all these penalties, you take three in the second and three in the third and that leaves you with only 14 minutes (5 on 5)," Bruce Boudreau told reporters following the game. "We've got to find a way to stay out of penalty box. It was an ugly win, but it's OK."
The Thrashers decided to have some fun at the expense of Ovechkin. Per AJC:
A mock public-service announcement shown on the videoboard during a timeout joked about ridding the world of bad TV commercials featuring hockey players. The prime example: a spot in which Alexander Ovechkin sang and danced to promote a car dealership.
“Ovie, next time, call me,” deadpanned Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk, a real-life friend of Ovechkin’s.
And after the Thrashers’ second goal, images of a dancing Ovechkin appeared over one of the usual celebration videos.
Funny, but Ovi and the Capitals got the last laugh.
The defensive effort was much better for the Caps in this game. Boudreau talked about a recommitment to the defensive zone as well as better play from his blue liners. The Caps' D-men stood up attackers at the blue line, had better communication, and put forth a better effort.
And the backup played really well. Simeon Varlamov earned his 4th win with some dynamite saves against some of the Thrashers' best snipers. His lateral movement was the showcase as he slid over in the first period to rob Ilya Kovalchuk's one timer. Kovalchuk even gave Varly a pat on the head after a solid stop.
But the Caps did have their faults. A few bad turnovers, some sloppy plays and little energy kept the Capitals struggling through to the end of the game. There just seemed a loss of focus as well, as highlighted by Mike Green's penalty of playing the puck with a broken stick. Behind his own net, Green wanted to slap the puck around the boards but he broke his stick. Then for some unexplained reason he tried to play the puck with the broken shaft. While the Thrashers didn't score on the ensuing power play, it was just that kind of night for the Capitals.
The Capitals will have to play well to secure that second place spot. If my math is correct (and it rarely is), the Caps need at least a point or a Devil loss to secure second place. They got some help tonight as the Devils fell to the Maple Leafs 4-1, giving the Caps a comfortable 4 point advantage. If the Caps do secure second, Boudreau may ask some big names to take a seat in the final Florida game to rest them up for the playoffs.
There were 13 games tonight and things in the Eastern Conference are becoming a bit clearer. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia both clinched playoff spots. The Florida Panthers lost their game with the Flyers which means they will have to be perfect in their last two games. The Rangers woke up and defeated Montreal to stay in the dance. And the Buffalo Sabres have a huge hill to climb to surpass the Rangers.
All that is left is to find out who the Caps will be playing in the playoffs as it could range from the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens or Florida Panthers. Of the three, the Caps would have a much better first round against the struggling and injury plagued Canadiens. But that should be sorted out in the next few days.