Perhaps it was all the penalties. Perhaps it was the general ineptness of Atlanta's defense. It might even have been the two quick power play goals in the first period. But whatever the reason, last night's 4-3 Washington Capitals win over the Atlanta Thrashers didn't seem anywhere near as close as the score would attest to, as the Caps fairly dominated their cellar-swelling division rival.

Atlanta's defense is one of the worst in the NHL, evidenced by allowing the fourth most shots in the league and the highest number of goals allowed, and last night was no exception. In addition to the four goals surrendered, the Caps (39-18-5-83, first in Southeast, second in East) registered 40 shots on goal and controlled the puck for minutes at a time in Atlanta's zone.

For one 15 minutes stretch during the second and third periods, the Thrashers managed just four shots on net, and had seven total in each of the last two periods.

In addition to the shoddy defense work, Atlanta took eight minor penalties, and Washington cashed those in, scoring on three of the eight power plays. Shockingly, Alex Ovechkin was not part of the Caps' goal-scoring parade.

Alexander Semin started the parade with his 23rd of the season just 4:27 into the affair. With Todd White off for hooking, Semin took a pass from Sergei Fedorov just outside the blue line and split two Thrashers before putting a wrist shot top-shelf on Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen (36 saves).

Eric Perrin was called for slashing on the goal, so Washington went right back on the power play. Mike Green unleashed a slap shot less than a minute later which trickled through Lehtonen, and Brooks Laich slapped it home as it bounced toward the Atlanta goal for his 15th of the season.

"He [Laich] needs to get to 20 so I forgive him," Green said chuckling.

Atlanta got a power play goal to halve the lead by Ilya Kovalchuk, his 32nd of the season, with Ovechkin off for roughing. Ovie went after Rich Peverley, who hit Ovechkin in the face with his stick as Ovie was maneuvering though the Atlanta zone. Inexplicably there was no call on the play--which looked intentional--and Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.

Green added a power play goal on a laser that beat Kovalchuk high, and Eric Fehr added insurance in the third period. Atlanta got a late goal from Todd White, but Caps rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth, making his first home start, made the lead stand up.

Neuvirth made 21 saves, several on odd-man rushes, for his second victory of the season. "The goaltending looks like it's going to be OK in the future," said Boudreau, who noted that No. 1 goalie Jose Theodore will be in the net for Saturday's game at Eastern Conference-leading Boston.

04:27 Power Play-Alexander Semin (23), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fedorov, Ovechkin
05:20 Power Play-Brooks Laich (15), Tip-In. Assist: Green, Semin
16:11 Power Play-Ilya Kovalchuk (32), Wrist Shot. Assist: White, Kozlov

03:56 Rich Peverley (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Havelid, Enstrom
12:25 Power Play-Mike Green (23), Slap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Semin

04:47 Eric Fehr (10), Wrist Shot. Assist: Morrisonn, Steckel
18:03 Short-Todd White (16), Slap Shot. Assist: Kovalchuk, Reasoner

1. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
2. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. I. Kovalchuk - ATL (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Mike Green scored his 16th power play goal of the season, breaking the mark set by Scott Stevens in 1984-85. Green also passed Tomas Vanek of Buffalo for the NHL lead in PP goals this season. With his assist on Green's power play goal, Niklas Backstrom extended his point streak to eight games. Viktor Kozlov returned to the first line after missing nine games with a groin injury. Fehr has seven goals and 12 points in the last 13 games. Michael Nylander and Staffan Kronwall were healthy scratches.

Game 62 Preview: Washington Hosts Atlanta Thrashers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, February 26, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (38-18-5-81, first in Southeast) host the Atlanta Thrashers (22-33-6-50, fifth in Southeast) at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

The Capitals have split the first four games of a season-high five-game homestand, beating Montreal and Pittsburgh and falling to Colorado and, most recently, Philadelphia Tuesday night 4-2. The Caps held a 2-0 lead against Philly, only to see it evaporate in the span of 3:19 in the third period.

Atlanta beat Colorado at home Tuesday 4-3, but had dropped their previous two games, to Phoenix and San Jose. The Thrashers are 5-4-1 in their last ten games.

Atlanta has some skilled players, led by Ilya Kovalchuk. His 64 points (31 goals, 33 assists, minus-14) are good for 13th in the NHL. Winger Slava Kozlov (18-34-52, minus-16) and center Todd White (15-37-52, minus-10) round out their top three scorers.

The Thrashers have given up 214 goals this season, second-most in the league, and have allowed 18 goals in the last four meetings with Washington. Goalies Kari Lehtonen (12-18-4, 3.15, .908) and Johan Hedberg (7-9-3, 3.61, .884) have been below par this season, and their defensive squad gives up more shots than all but three teams in the league.

Washington expects to get RW Viktor Kozlov back on its first line tonight. The veteran Russian forward has missed nine games with a groin strain and is eager to get back with his linemates Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom.

"It's been hard," Kozlov told The Washington Post. "I was happy that the team was winning. But at the same time, I want to be on the ice and be part of that winning. But an injury is an injury. You have to heal it."

Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth will his second career start in goal tonight against Atlanta, giving starter Jose Theodore a break. Staffan Kronwall will be one of the scratches, and if Kozlov plays, another player, most likely a forward, will be scratched as well.

: PP-3rd (23.8%, 60/252); PK-21st (80.0%, 60/300)
ATL: PP-11th (19.8%, 49/247); PK-29th (74.9%, 65/259)

WAS: RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-Probable); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)
ATL: C Jim Slater (Shoulder-IR)

CAPS GAME REPORT: Caps v. Flyers, Feb. 24, 2009

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Third Period

Nylander draws a hooking call from Gagne in the slot. Nyls is having a very good game. Power Play at 1:45. The best opportunity comes from Philly, with Theo completely stoning Knuble on the doorstep.

Knuble holds Ovie trying to get through the zone at 7:23. Time for a power play. Not a very organized effort with the extra man. It passes without incident.

Hartnall ties the game at two with a wicked wrist shot after a neutral zone turnover gave the Flyers a 3-on-2. 2-2 at 9:11.

Jeff Carter break the tie less than two minutes later as he corralled a rebound and beat a defenseless Theodore. Time of goal 10:36. 3-2 Flyers.

And now the Caps are just getting sloppy. Aaron Ashram is allowed to skate through the left wing circle, through the crease, let Theo take himself out and then buries it. Ashram schooled Schultz. 4-2 Flyers at 12:30.

I just heard my first E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles! chant at 14:45. Ugh.

Fehr takes a slash at 17:01, and that ought to about do it. It was a thoroughly interesting game until mid-way through the third. The Caps wish they could have had a couple of the power plays back, I'm sure.

Final Score: Flyers 4, Caps 2
SOG: WAS-34, PHI-36

Second Period

19 seconds in, Hartnall takes a slash, so as the Nylander penalty expires the Caps go straight to the power play. No real scoring opportunities with the extra man.

Mere seconds after Ovie tipped one off the post on a feed by Green, the puck found its was back to him in the slot, and he made no mistake with it. Its his 44th of the season at 4:19. 2-0 Caps.

Jurcina takes a slash at 7:28 that send the stick flying 30 feet. Back to the PK. Again. With 15 seconds left, Semin throws it off the ice over the Flyers bench. Two more minutes to kill.

With six seconds on the first penalty, Claude Giroux buries a pass from Richards behind Theo. Still over 1:40 to kill the second period. 2-1 Caps.

Laich has two nice opportunities--one a breakaway--on the PK. As Semin came out of the box, the Caps rushed the puck and stormed the goal, and with a scrum in front of the net, Matthew Carle tripped Semin in the slot to give the Caps another power play at 11:32. Caps crash the net hard during the ensuing PP, but just can't get one to drop. Very good work by Nylander and Fehr on the second unit.

Brashear was headhunting on the next shift, looking for someone to bury and he got a bad piece of Lupul, although the replay looked like Lupul dove a bit. Anyway, a scrum occurred and Brash was sent off with Hartnall for roughing. Four on four hockey at 14:21!

Theordore gets a roughing call as Hartnall fell into him in the crease at 17:12. Theo did take a little jab at his head with his blocker, but Hartnall made NO effort to avoid slamming into the goalie. More special teams. And another successful kill. PK very effective tonight. They've killed all the 5-on-4's and just gave up the goal on the 5-on-3.

End of the second period, Caps 2-1. SOG: WAS-24, PHI-26.

First Period

Hard to take the National Anthem being used for battle cries.

Upshall gets whistled for dumping Green in the Caps zone. Caps answer with the goal four seconds later. Fedorov won the draw back to Ovie, who didn't get much on the shot, but Backstrom collects and backhands into an open net. 1-0 Caps at 1:48.

Big glove save by Theodore on Knuble skating in all alone on the left wing. Very quick pace to the first period.

Steckel gets a holding call at 9:32. BIG hit by Richards on Poti behind the Caps net. Nice save by Theo on Lupul. Hartnall gets whistled for a retaliation hit on Green. VERY chippy already--lots of big hitting.

And now on the resulting Caps power play, Gagne throws the puck off the ice for a 47 second two-man advantage. Flyers kill the whole power play.

Awesome play by Jurcina to clear the puck out of the goal mouth. Theo makes another quality save seconds later and Erskine knocks Upshall to the ice with a stick to the "midsection" on the cover. Erskine gets two minutes at 15:50. Caps have the two best scoring opportunities on Philly's PP.

Nylander gets his stick up high and goes off for a slash at 18:20. Back to the PK. Outstanding work by the killers at teh end of the period, coupled by a couple of lucky bounces right at the end of the period. 1-0 Caps.

SOG: WAS-7; PHI-12


It's noticeably cold in the Verizon Center tonight. GM George McPhee spoke with season ticket holders before the game in one of the Caps' "Chalk Talks". He was interestingly candid about dealing with other GMs, some of the prospects in the system, and the possibility of trading at the deadline. I was sort of surprised no one asked him about the trash talking over the weekend and spilling into Monday.

Here are tonight's scratches: PHI--D Kimmo Timmonen, D Lasse Kukkonen; WAS--D Staffan Kronwall.

Antero Niittymaki gets the start against Jose Theodore.

I'll be back with updates as the game goes on and between periods.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--Game 61: Caps Host Philthy Phlyers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals play in the Southeast Conference, but all their rivals hail from Pennsylvania. The Caps host their other arch-nemesis, the Philadelphia Flyers, at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center, fresh off a 5-2 pasting of their foes from western PA Sunday afternoon on national television.

The Caps (38-17-5-81, first in Southeast), in the middle of a five-game homestand, look to provide a rude welcome to the Flyers, fourth place in the conference and 10 points behind the second place Capitals. Washington trails Boston for the lead by just seven points entering play tonight.

The teams have split their last six meetings and both games this season. Philadelphia routed the Capitals 7-1 at home Dec. 20 in a loss that was every bit as demoralizing as the score would indicate, but the Caps prevailed in a 2-1 shootout win on Jan. 6.

The Flyers are 2-0-1 in their last three trips to the Verizon Center.

Philadelphia won two of three last week, beating the Rangers 5-2 on the road and Buffalo 6-3 at home, before falling to Pittsburgh 5-4 Saturday night. The Caps have won four of their last five games, and remain poised for one more run at the Bruins for top seed in the conference.

Jose Theodore will play a big role in tonight's game. He is 4-1-0 with a 2.02 goals against average in his last five games against Philly, and 4-1-1 with a 2.60 GAA in his last six games. But Philadelphia will bring the heat, having scored 20 goals in its last four games.

In addition, Philly leads the league in short-handed goals with 16. Flyers' captain Mike Richards (23-37-60, plus-23) has seven to lead the NHL, with a shorty in his last three games. Jeff Carter (34-26-50, plus 12) and Simon Gagne (22-31-53, plus-23) each have four short-handed markers.

The Caps' power play leads the Eastern Conference and is third in the league at 24.1 percent, so we should see fireworks when Washington has a man advantage either way. Philly's power play is no slouch either, fourth overall in the NHL, just behind Washington.

The Caps will miss Viktor Kozlov, who will sit out his eighth straight game with a pulled groin. The team hopes he will return to action Thursday night after taking extra work at the pre-game skate this morning. Staffan Kronwall will be a healthy scratch.

WAS: PP-3rd (24.1%, 59/245); PK-20th (79.8%, 59/292)
PHI: PP-4th (23.3%, 50/215); PK-8th (82.9%, 49/286)

WAS: RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-IR); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)

PHI: D Derian Hatcher (Knee-IR); C Daniel Briere (Groin-IR); C Jeff Carter (Flu-Probable)

As If Anyone Needed Another Reason to LOVE Chris Cooley

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, February 23, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Check out Cooley's latest blog post. I know it's his brother that does most of the posting, but it's still pretty awesome and going out under Chris' name on the blog. Cooley supports the other home teams. Good for him.

"What I can say about him?" reigning Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin said. "He is a good player, but he talks too much."

"Like it or lump it, that's what he does," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said about Ovechkin's checking, insinuating dirty play. "Some people like it, some people don't. Personally, I don't like it."

"I play hard. If he wants to do something like hit me again, try to hit me again -- and I'll talk to you guys [about] who plays dirty," Ovechkin said. "That's my game. It's not cheap shots, it's a game moment. But he doesn't like it, it's his problem."
Ah yes, now that we have that settled, we can talk about a hockey game.

The Washington Capitals (38-17-5, first in Southeast) defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins (29-26-6, fourth in Atlantic) 5-2 before a raucous, sold out Verizon Center Sunday afternoon on national television.

The Capitals got goals from five different players, and held the Pens' dynamic duo to an assist apiece in turning back the tenth place team in the conference, despite being granted eight power play chances to DC's three, including all three man-advantages int he third period. Pittsburgh went just 1-for-8 with the extra man. The Caps went two-for-three.

The Capitals are 3-0 against the Penguins this season and 4-1-1 since Bruce Boudreau took over in November 2007. The Caps have won 13 straight at home against Eastern Conference opponents and hold the East's best home record at 24-5-1 overall.

The win gives the Caps their best record through 60 games in franchise history.

Washington received goals from Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov, Shaone Morrisonn and Brooks Laich, chasing Peguins starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after Laich's tally. Pittsburgh got markers from Maxime Talbot and Sergei Gonchar, playing in just his fourth game this season since returning from a shoulder injury.

Jose Theodore made 31 saves in the win for Washington.

Maxime Talbot and Sergei Gonchar scored for the Penguins, losers of six of seven on the road.

Never was the status of this rivalry more evident than late in the second period, as both superstars were exiting the ice for a line change. Ovie gave Crosby a shoulder check and Crosby responded by trying to dump Ovechkin over the boards and into the Caps team bench. Ovechkin grabbed Crosby by the back of the neck, pulling his helmet off in the process, right in front of Washington's bench, and on-ice reporter Pierre McGuire for NBC.

A linesman stepped between the players and the jawing continued, but Ovechkin got the last word in waving "bye bye" to Sid the Kid as Crosby was pushed toward the Penguins bench, much like a petulant child sent to a "time out".

"I think he got frustrated because he wasn't getting the freedom he's had in this building before," Boudreau said of Crosby's dust-up with Ovechkin. "It adds spice. It's entertainment. It gets your blood boiling a bit. And every time Alex gets a little more excitable, it can be good for us."

The Capitals face their other rival from the Commonwealth, the Philadelphia Flyers, Tuesday night at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center. Philly fell to Pittsburgh Saturday night 5-4, and are fourth in the conference with 71 points.

06:53 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (43), Snap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Fedorov
12:08 Maxime Talbot (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Eaton, Orpik
13:02 Power Play - Alexander Semin (22), Wrist Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green

00.56 Sergei Fedorov (6), Slap Shot. Assist: Semin
04:46 Power Play - Sergei Gonchar (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Crosby, Malkin
12:56 Shaone Morrisonn (3), Slap Shot. Assist: Ovechkin, Fehr
13:21 Brooks Laich (14), Wrist Shot. Assist: Poti, Morrisonn


1. S. Fedorov - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)