Six-Pack – For the second straight Thursday night, the Washington Capitals cruised to a three-goal, second period lead against the Thrashers in Atlanta. And for the second straight Thursday night, the Caps held on for a white-knuckle finish and a one-goal win.
The Caps downed the Thrashers 4-3 to run their winning streak to six straight and seven games in a row with at least a point (6-0-1).
Alex Ovechkin staked the Caps to a 2-0 lead in the first, and Brendan Morrison made it 3-0 with a power play goal early in the second. But just as it did last week, Atlanta crept its way back into the contest.
From the time Morrison scored at 4:10 of the second through to the end of the game, Atlanta outshot the Capitals by a lopsided 31-13 margin. For the second time in as many games, Washington surrendered exactly 20 shots in the third period of a game.
“We know they compete and every time we’re here, no matter what kind of lead we have, they don’t give up,” says Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. “They’re going to continue to press. We didn’t play great in the third. The first two periods we were simple; we played a good, consistent game.
“Come the third period, it’s hard to say [what happened]. We were a little soft in our end. We want to really tighten things up and that’s the time when we really want to put them away. We want to get the puck in their end, let their [defense] handle the puck and just be ‘game over.’ But we haven’t done that. We’re still sorting that stuff out. It’s just a matter of making simple plays and trying to let our lead carry us through the third.”
The Caps are now 8-2 in their last 10 meetings with the Thrashers. Washington has won each of the last four against Atlanta, its longest winning streak in the history of the series between the two Southeast Division denizens.
Multiple Mania – With two goals against Atlanta tonight, Ovechkin now has six multiple-goal games this season. Ovechkin’s six multiple-goal games are the most by any NHL player in the month of October since Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues had five in 1990, according to ESPN. Hull went on to score a career-high 86 goals that season.
The last NHL player to have six multiple-goal games in a month was Carolina’s Jeff O’Neill in January, 2001.
Ovechkin had 13 multiple-goal games last season and he now has 50 of them for his NHL career. The Capitals are 5-0-1 in Ovechkin’s multiple-goal games this season and they are 27-0-2 in his last 29 multiple goal contests.
Ovechkin has now scored 116 career goals at Verizon Center and 116 on the road. His 11 even-strength goals are the most in the NHL this season.
Great Goaltending – For the second consecutive game, the Capitals surrendered more than 40 shots on goal and still managed to escape with a win. Two nights after Jose Theodore’s 41-save performance gave the Caps a 3-2 win over Philadelphia, Washington needed every one of Semyon Varlamov’s 38 saves against Atlanta.
Varlamov is now 5-0 this season and 9-0-1 for his regular season NHL career. He is 3-0 lifetime against the Thrashers.
Match-Up – While the Capitals entered tonight’s game with the Thrashers with a fine 7-2-2 record, the Thrashers came in at 4-3-1. That’s interesting only because some of the other numbers the two teams had coming into Thursday night’s game were so similar.
Washington came into the contest with an average of 3.64 goals per game, just a shade more than Atlanta’s total of 3.5. The Thrashers had surrendered an average of 2.88 goals per game, just a hair more than Washington’s 2.82.
Atlanta’s power play was far better than Washington’s (28.1% to 17.3%) and the Thrashers also came in with a better penalty killing percentage than the Capitals (86.1% to 81.5%).
Streak Stuff – During the life of Washington’s seven-game streak with at least a point, the Caps have scored 3.43 goals per game while allowing just 2.29 tallies per contest. Atlanta is the only team in the last seven games to score more than two goals in a game against Washington, and the Thrashers have done it twice.
The Capitals have been solid on the penalty kill during that seven-game spree, killing 82.8% of the opposition’s man-advantage chances. Washington’s power play has been a shade less effective over the same span, operating with a success rate of just 15.2% in the past seven games.
Seven-Up – With his assist on Ovechkin’s first-period power play goal, Caps defenseman Mike Green extended his scoring streak to seven straight games (two goals, six assists).
Green’s run is the longest scoring streak by a Capital this season and the longest by any defenseman in the NHL.
Managed Minutes – With the Caps playing the front end of their first pair of back-to-back games this season, all four of the “Young Guns” were deployed less tonight than in any game on ’09-10.
Ovechkin logged 19:23 in ice time, his lowest of the season and the first time he has been under 20 minutes in any game this season. Nicklas Backstrom’s 16:56 was his lowest total of the season by nearly three minutes. Alexander Semin skated 17:37, also his lowest single-game mark of the campaign. Green’s 22:03 was also his lowest of 2009-10.
Thrasher Killer – Ovechkin now has 25 career goals against Atlanta, tying him with Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier for the most ever against the Thrashers.
Trio of Helpers – The Caps’ Brooks Laich had three assists in the game against Atlanta for his second three-point game of the young season. Laich also matched his single-game career best with the three helpers. He had three assists in a March 27, 2009 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Powering Up – Washington had two power play goals in Thursday’s game at Atlanta. It marks the first time the Caps have had multiple power play goals in the same game since they went 2-for-4 with the extra man in their Oct. 1 opening night win over the Bruins in Boston.
Morrison’s power play goal tonight was his second of the season. He had three power play goals in each of the previous two campaigns.
Flash Back – Left wing Tomas Fleischmann made his 2009-10 debut on Thursday after missing the first 11 games because of deep vein thrombosis. Fleischmann logged 16:07 on the night, including 3:21 worth of power play time. He averaged 15:06 last season.
Fleischmann had three shots on goal, had a few good scoring chances and generated a few others.
“I would say I felt better every shift,” says Fleischmann of his 2009-10 debut. “The guys helped me a lot on the line and the whole team, too. Altogether, I thought it went well.”
He was also on the receiving end of a booming first-period hit from Atlanta’s Zach Bogosian, something he found to be a useful element of his first game back.
“I needed something like that,” says Fleischmann. “I couldn’t wait for some big hit and it was good. I felt good.”
Shoot ‘Em Up – Atlanta went through its first eight games of the 2009-10 season without mustering as many as 30 shots on goal in a game. Thrashers coach John Anderson said Thursday morning before the game that he had urged his team to generate more shots, and they took his advice to heart against the Capitals, firing 41 shots on Varlamov.
This Day in NHL History – Legendary Caps center Dale Hunter potted his first NHL goal on this date in 1980, playing for the Quebec Nordiques against the Vancouver Canucks.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps left wing and Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner, born on this date in 1959.
By The Numbers – Blueliner Brian Pothier skated 20:11 in Thursday’s game, his single-game high for the season … Keith Aucoin’s 11:59 was his highest ice time total with Washington this season … Chris Clark and Alexander Semin were the only two Caps who did not record one of the team’s 32 shots on goal in Thursday’s game … Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with three hits. Schultz, Milan Jurcina and Tom Poti were each credited with two blocked shots. Schultz also led all Caps with 19:07 in even-strength ice time.