Capitals 8, Thrashers 1
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau could not have scripted a better game on his birthday. On his 55th birthday, number 55 Jeff Schultz had two assists and was a plus 5, Alex Semin and Mike Knuble had a pair of goals and the Caps routed the Atlanta Thrashers 8-1.
"Any time you can score 8 goals and [Alex Ovechkin] only got one assist [and] you are getting balance from four lines, " the birthday coach told reporters following the game, "it's pretty nice as a coach."
Sixteen Capitals scored at least a point tonight. Besides goals from Knuble and Semin, the Caps got contributions from David Steckel, Tom Poti, Nick Backstrom and Jason Chimera (his first goal as a Capital). The Caps chased Thrasher goaltender Johan Hedberg from the game after they jumped to a 4-0 lead but back up Ondrej Pavelec didn't fare much better, besides turning away 10 shots in just over four minutes in taking over in net.
While the Dizzy Birds had a rough time in their net, Michal Neuvirth looked like cool hand Luke making a series of great stops early in the game. "[The Thrashers] were very good in the first period," Boudreau said, "Our goaltender should have been the first star."
When the Caps did turned over the puck, Neuvy was there with the stop. He stopped 38 shots on the way to his fifth win of the season. The Caps young goalie is in a really good headspace right now, he did not get rattled when it seemed his team seemed back on their heels. "To me," Boudreau continued, "he was the pivotal player in the game. He held us in."
The defensive core had a great night as Poti had a three point night, Schultz was a plus 5 and had two assists and only John Erskine (who left the game with an undisclosed injury in the third period and did not return) and Shaone Morrisonn were held off the scoresheet. "We wanted them to get more involved, and they did get more involved," Boudreau said. While they helped out on the offensive side, they did have some holes at times on the defensive end. When they did leave a hole, Neuvirth was quick to come in with the save.
The Capitals made a pretty loud statement to the rest of the Southeast Division. It is a win they needed to keep the pressure on the Eastern Conference. They are three points behind first place Devils and have increased their point lead in the division by 16 points.
Caps get a much needed day of rest tomorrow before they practice Monday in Tampa Bay then face the Lightning on Tuesday night for a 7:30 pm start.