Thrashers beat Caps 3-1 as Pavelec Soars

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Burmistrov’s devastating chip shot eludes Varlamov. (Photo by Luis M. Alvarez)

It’s not like the Washington Capitals have a hard time getting pumped up for a intra-division game. Facing the Atlanta Thrashers at home tonight, the Caps put a season-high 46 pucks on net (with another 20 attempted). But Ondrej Pavelec stood like a giant in the Atlanta net, turning away all but one of those pucks. At least it wasn’t a shutout.

Rich Peverly deflected a monster shot from Byfuglien to create the first goal of the night.  Penalty engine Alex Burmistrov recorded the second goal, a brilliant chip shot from no angle. At the end of a long shift in Atlanta territory, Alex Ovechkin ended his nine-game goal drought with a one-timer assisted by the other Alex. After David Steckel took a controversial kneeing penalty, Andrew Ladd took only eight seconds to score the game’s final goal. Bummer. Thrashers beat Caps 3-1.

  • Ovechkin ends the slump (Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)

    Ovechkin ends the slump (Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)

    If Ondrej Pavelec were a car, he’d be firing on all cylinders. Last time we saw a goalie this hot, we had to invent a word for it: Halak’d.

  • That said, the 46 shots stat might be misleading.  The Caps took a lot of their shots from outside and were not helped by friendly traffic in front of the net. It was way too easy for that nigh-invulnerable goalie to swat away pucks without imminent rebounds. The PP unit can cycle the puck in their sleep, but they falter when it comes to shifting into the slot.
  • Alex Ovechkin scoars, thank goodness. I know we were all “he’s a playmaking, Russian assist machine now; who cares if he doesn’t score!”, but c’mon. He needed this. We needed this. In an interview with CSN’s Al Koken during the second intermission, Alex said it best: “My job is to scoar goals.”  Then Do Work, Son. Crosby’s got a hefty lead on you.

  • This bullet is dedicated to all the ludicrous saves Pavelec made. That desperate swat of the glove to turn away Mike Green should be criminal.
  • Personnel notes: John Erskine missed tonight’s game after a bad bump sustained on Thursday. In his place was Tyler Sloan, who mostly paired with winless Scott Hannan. It should not go unsaid that this pair was on ice for Atlanta’s game winner.
  • The faceoff dot was unkind to the Caps. Of the players who were not dismissed from the circle entirely, pucks seemed to go the wrong away too often. Most at fault here is Nick Backstrom, who had an uncharacteristic 5-for-17 faceoff record.
  • David Steckel collided knee-on-knee with Tobias Enstrom. After the ensuing fight with Jim Slater, the referees retroactively imposed a penalty on Stecks for the original contact, but did not penalize Slater for the instigator. What’s the point of the instigator penalty if it’s never used?
  • I hate piling up on the zebras, but there’s more. Either the Capitals’ faces spontaneously generated some attraction for hockey sticks, or the Thrashers knew they weren’t gonna get called for it. Mike Green can testify to that. So can John Carlson. Jason Chimera could tell us about that three or four times, and the nasty gash on his lip would be exhibit A.
Joe B's suit of the night

Joe B's suit of the night

But let’s put the whining aside. Just like last game, poor officiating is not the reason the Caps lost tonight. The refs are not to blame for the paltry offense we’ve seen lately. You can define lately as either “this week” or “since April”. There’s a killer instinct, a Bodhi-like hunger for adventure that is missing from the D.C. forwards. Until the Capitals get back in that zone, feeding free wings to the fans at every chance, they’ll continue to lose marginal games like this one.

Catch you guys on Monday, when the Caps will undoubtedly put the hurting on the wallowing Toronto Make-Believes.

  • BobbyG

    This game falls in the good news, bad news category. The good news is Ovie’s goal-scoring drought is over. The bad news is the Caps lost their second straight game. If I had to choose, I’d rather have Ovie get only assists and the Caps keep winning than have him score in a Caps loss.

    The story of tonight’s game was Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Of course the Caps helped out immensely by staying on the perimter for most of their shots. Haven’t they learned anything yet about going to the net, putting bodies in front of the opposition goalie to create havoc and screen him? I have a suggestion for Coach Boudreau’s next team practice, and it does not involve shooting from the outside. More often than not, ugly garbage goals win games. It’s time the Caps make this adjustment.

  • jenn

    any stats on how many games have seen steckel penalized twice?! how about wins-losses when the caps are without their voice? i know i missed wes tonight, maybe the guys did, too.

    it seems like nobody could buy a goal (except ovie – thank goodness) or a faceoff win.

    i blame georgetown basketball.

  • Tim

    One thing that needs to be corrected – the ref called the kneeing penalty before the fight. I as in 409, and saw a ref near the benches with his arm up while Slater was skating towards Steckel. That being said, Slater deserved an instigator, and there is no excuse for him not getting one. The Caps simply could not get consistent pressure close to the net tonight, and Pavelec was unreal when they did. Hopefully the Caps can learn from this.

  • DarkStranger44

    The game brought back bad memories — of the series against Montreal. And has me more than a little worried about their playoff chances.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    This is not what I wanted to come back from Hershey and see! Bahhh.

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  • http://make-lemons.com Michelle

    Love the Point Break reference….. not much else to love about this game….

  • barb

    why didn’t anyone mention how far out toby enstrom was sticking his leg in order to make contact with steckel?? unless toby had a sudden keen desire to do the chicken dance, he was extending his limb way out to make sure david collided with him. then he was lying on the ice like he’d been shot with a .44 magnum and couldn’t find his spleen. nice touch, that crawling across the ice bit too. embellish much? miracle healing powers too. wow.

    but of all people, against david steckel? yeah, that’s right– our dangerous, blood-thirsty danger-magnet david ‘the destroyer’ steckel? *insert eye roll* i think whatever player was skating close enough to toby was going to get kneed by enstrom in order to draw a penalty against the caps. that make refs either too incompetent to realize what was going on or complicit in attaching more penalties to the caps.

  • Tim

    Barb, you do know that Enstrom missed the rest of the game, aside from 30 seconds or so of seeing if his knee still worked, didn’t you? There was nothing fake about it – it was almost exactly like the Ovie-Gonchar hit a couple years ago. Enstrom was trying to get out of the way of a much bigger player (as in 7 inches taller and 37 pounds heavier) and wasn’t able to get his leg out of the way. The refs called it exactly as they should have – a minor for an accidental knee-to-knee hit. The only thing they did wrong on that play was to not call Slater for an instigator.

  • Alex

    On top of that, the Caps got away with having 6 skaters (and Varly) on the ice for a good 15 seconds in the third. How that went unnoticed, I have no idea, but they dodged the bullet on that one.

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