THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals got down early behind a shaky rookie backup goalie and never recovered, cruising throughout the game and falling to the homestanding Atlanta Thrashers 5-0, before an annouced 11,115 at Phillips Arena. There were perhaps half that in attendance.
It was the first time the Capitals (14-5-1) had been shut out since Dec. 9, 2009, to Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.
Braden Holtby, making his second start of the season, lasted just 9:27, allowing three pretty bad goals in succession. The youngster faced just five shots before being yanked by Coach Bruce Boudreau.
Holtby was screened on the first goal, a wrist shot from Ben Eager from the right wing circle that went across the crease and beat him stick-side. On the second goal, he misplayed a loose puck above the crease from his stomach and Nik Antorpov pushed a backhander into the empty goal.
Just 15 seconds later, Evander Kane flung a puck toward the Caps goal from just above the goal line that Holtby never saw and it went right between his legs for the Thrashers third goal. That's all that Boudreau needed to see.
Things didn't really get much better after Michal Neuvirth (29 saves on 31 shots) entered. He was solid in net, but the damage had already been done. The Caps were outshot 36-29 and, for the most part, looked fairly uninterested after the score became 3-0.
Things were much better on the other end of the ice, as Ondrej Pavelec stopeed all 29 shots he faced. Pavelec was also the beneficiary of three Capitals shots ringing off goal posts.
And there was injury to go along with the insult. Mike Green took a hard shot into the boards and missed several shifts, and Mike Knuble took an Eric Fehr shot to his face, drawing much blood. He never returned to the game and Boudreau said Knuble would be "out a while" with the injury.
There just isn't much more to say about this one. The Caps were outplayed and out-hustled, and I'm sure it will be a quiet flight home tonight after Boudreau gets the screaming out of his system in the lockerroom.
It's a quick turnaround for a team that laid an egg this evening, with the Philadelphia Flyers already in D.C. awaiting the team with the best record in the league to return home for Saturday night's main event. Hopefully, the Caps got all their suck out of the way tonight and find some of the Fury for their worthy opponent.
Cause they sure didn't have any tonight.
THE GOOD: Hmm. Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves in the relief effort. Mike Green had four shots on goal. I guess that's it.
THE BAD: Braden Holtby. He looked shaky and nervous. It's just one game, but even from the look on his face for the pre-game skate he just didn't "look" right.
THE UGLY: Tyler Sloan. He was on the ice for all of Atlanta's first four goals. This team can't get Tom Poti back quickly enough.
THE STATS: No goals.
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center against the Philadelphia Flyers.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Both players were even on a night the Caps gave up five goals.
2. Nicklas Backstrom. Only had one shot on goal, but was one of few players that had spring in his step.
1. Michael Neuvirth. He continued his strong season, but this was certainly a night Boudreau would have liked to rest him with the big match-up tomorrow.