Atlanta Thrashers Pregame: Wait, What? Winnipeg Who?

Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub

Puck Buddy Doug Johnson writes for RMNB. Follow @PuckBuddys unless you’re Sean Avery.

The Pre Game: I’m going to let you in on a secret. We people of the prairie have known it for decades, but as a group we tend to be Scandinavian, and so tight-lipped. We only pass it down– whispered– when there’s no other choice; as on those nights the wind shakes the windows and hope seems to extinguish in the pit of a cold, dead emptiness. And here it is: there is no darker, stranger place on this Earth than Winnipeg. It’s Canada’s sooty heart of darkness… and now, thanks to the NHL, we have to spend a night there.

You can spend a lifetime overnight in Winnipeg.

The Puck Drop

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “But it’s Canada! How scary can that be?” Here’s how creepy: David Lynch won’t even go there. That’s how creepy Winnipeg is. Built at the base of a floodplain that sinks in summer and concentrates the winds into an arctic vortex each winter, Winnipeg is a place that sensible cultures would just abandon. Admit their mistake, move on, and leave it to future anthropologists to try and make sense of the debris: curling, BTO, and Guy Maddin.

Sure, some have escaped. Cody Eakin and Eric the Fehr among the more adorables. But let me ask you this: do you know anyone who’s been to Winnipeg? Didn’t they come back…changed?

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The Erskine Supremacy: Caps beat Thrashers 6-4

John Erskine scores the GWG!

“Can you believe we won this???” (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another.

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

This third meeting of the Washington Capitals and Atlanta Thrashers was not overshadowed by injury like the season-opener was by Ondrej Pavelec‘s collapse. Instead, we were treated to a cavalcade of slapstick puckery. The puck had a mind of its own tonight, and the game’s three goalies were none too happy about it.

Alex Ovechkin opened it up early with a lucky bounce knocked in by goalie Chris Mason. Mason had already bobbled an earlier shot; this one he knocked in all by himself. Mike Green piled on with a mustache-fueled power play goal hooked up by Eric Fehr and Mike Knuble. Atlanta’s Rich Peverly turned in what was either a world-class goal or a total fluke (we vote the latter). Tyler Sloan dove in front of a shot to lead to a turnover and breakaway for Alex Ovechkin. Ovie’s pass enabled Alex Semin to score a dazzling deke-and-goal that should humble the authors of the All-Star game ballot.

Like an out-of-control garbage truck full of terminally ill kittens, the second period brought destruction and woe to all in its path (i.e. the Capitals). Andrew Ladd scored one and Bryan Little scored two, the last of which was a shorthanded breakaway furnished by the careless puck control of our very own Russian Machine.

The third period languished on for 13 minutes before John Erskine– yes, that John Erskine– rocketed the game winner past relief goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Then David Steckel found the empty net as Capitals players are so eager to do.

Phew, that was exhausting. Caps beat Thrashers 6-4.

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Alex Semin (3 goals) celebrates with Mathieu Perreault (two assists) after his 5th career hat trick.

Ovechkin (9 hits) may not have scored, but the Trashers certainly felt his presence. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

Ovechkin (9 hits) may not have scored, but the Trashers certainly felt his presence. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

The hat-tricker and the catalyst celebrate their line’s third goal of the night. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

As the Capitals entered tonight’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Semyon Varlamov could not make his scheduled start due to a flame-up of his #brittlegroin. Caps regulars Boyd Gordon (rest) and Marcus Johansson (hip flexor) could not dress due to nagging pains. And Tom Poti was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury.

The Caps, who had just lost two straight games to the Boston Bruins rather unimpressively, were forced to go with a patch-work lineup which included minor league call-ups Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, & Dany Sabourin as well as a not-at-full-strength Mike Green.

When the puck dropped and the first period came to a close, the Capitals resembled the same struggling team that had lost Tuesday and Thursday. They were down 1-0 and the Thrashers outshot them 13-4..

Things quickly got rectified in the Caps lockerroom, however. “Kanoobs had a little speech,” Michal Neuvirth explained post-game. “[After his talk] we were getting better every minute. …We dominated in the third period. He just wasn’t happy with our effort. …We’re getting outshot on home ice. It just can’t happen.”

The Capitals then came out and outshot Atlanta 40 to 14 the rest of the game. Riding an Alex Semin natural hat trick, two assists from fan-favorite Mathieu Perreault, and a clutch backhand gwg from Flash, the Caps trash the Thrash in OT, 4-3.

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