The Washington Capitals got goals from Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Green--and 34 saves from first star of the game Jose Theodore-- to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.

The win is No. 51 for the season for Washington, setting a franchise record.

Theodore improved to 18-0-3 with a 2.70 GAA since Jan. 13, extending his own record for decisions without a regulation loss.

The Caps added to their franchise record for points in a season (114) and set a new mark for road wins (23).

Unfortunately, I did not get to watch the game, so please visit one of the excellent blogs in the blogroll to the right of this story for analysis of the game.

During their recently concluded three-game losing streak, Caps players, media, fans and Coach Bruce Boudreau all spoke often about the need for the club to play a full 60-minute game, something they all freely admitted they were not doing.

Thursday night, against a scrappy Atlanta team trying to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals got that 60-minute effort, defeating the Thrashers 2-1 before a frenzied capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Defenseman Mike Green, who assisted on the Caps' first goal of the night, spoke after the game about the effort level and getting the job done.

"It's been a while since we played a 60-minute game.  We've struggled in the first period the last few games, but tonight we came out strong.  It was important we got our first goal and usually when you do it lets everyone relax a little, you know, play the game properly."

"It was a complete 60 tonight.  It was something we needed to prove to ourselves that we can do going into the playoffs."

On playing--and beating--a team they could very well face in the first round, Green said, "It was important we got this win so they don't believe that [Atlanta] could ever beat us."

Coach Bruce Boudreau spoke about the compete effort in his post-game press conference.

"I thought it was like a playoff game.  It was tense and there weren't a lot of shots.  Those are the hardest games to play, because, I think there were 44 whistles after two periods.  You gotta stay focused cause some guys might not get on the ice for eight, ten minutes."

"I thought we beared down and proved we can play defensive when we have to.  And tonight was one of those nights."

The game winning goal was scored by the checking line of Matt Bradley, Jason Chimera and David Steckel. 

Steckel and Chimera both made good plays along the boards to keep the offensive zone, then the combative Bradley wrestled the puck from 48-year old Chris Chelios in the corner and went to the net, stuffing a backhander short-side against goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

It was a good reward for a line that worked hard all night, and for Bradley in particular.  He's been scuffling a bit of late, but with the tally he tied his career season-high of nine goals, set his rookie year with the San Jose Sharks.

"We talked about the last couple of games, if we had played [wide-open hockey] in the playoffs, it wasn't going to work," Bradley said. "We knew it was going to be a playoff-style game tonight because they're fighting for their lives. The first two periods were kind of boring with not much happening, but you've just got to wait it out and not make any stupid moves and you know your breaks will come."

Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov turned away 19 shots in the victory.  Though he wasn't tested very often, he made several nice saves early in the third period, before the Caps pressure just became oppressive for Atlanta. 

The Caps completely dominated a three minute stretch late in the third, keeping the puck deep in Atlanta's end, effectively running just two lines:  the fourth and first.  The Thrashers would empty their net with just over a minute to play, but even then they did not manage a quality chance on net.

There was a bit of a scare in the second period.  Atlanta forward Colby Armstrong delivered a fairly obvious flagrant elbow to the head of Caps' center Mattieu Perrault, knocking the diminutive player to the ice.  Perrault made his way to the bench under his own power, and would return, only to take a high stick later and open a nice gash on his lip.

"I was trying to make a play and I saw him at the last second," Perrault said.  "He got his elbow up pretty high, I think.  I kinda turned and he got me in the head."

There was no call on the elbow, as Armstrong only received a roughing when Shaone Morrisonn stood up for his fallen teammate.

"I guess [the referees] didn't really see it there.  On the replay you can see it was an elbow.  It should have been a penalty, I think."

So the Caps made a statement; to the Thrashers, to their coach, to themselves.  With five regular season games remaining, it was time for the team to pull it together and give a complete effort--a 60-minute game.

NOTES:  Nicklas Backstrom scored his 30th goal of the season, redirecting a Mike Green wrist shot from the point.  The assist gives Green 73 points, matching his career high.

Alex Ovechkin's assist on the play gives him 103 points on the season.

The win marks No. 50 for the Caps this season.

Brooks Laich returned to the ice for the first time, since his puck to the face, wearing a full cage mask.
Photo Courtesy of Jenn McAdoo of Net Asset Photography.

The Washington Capitals found themselves in familiar territory Tuesday night, trailing 3-1 after the first period to a lesser opponent.  It's almost become habit, as they have now been outscored 9-1 in their last three games.

The league's highest scoring offense started hitting some home runs and managed to steal the lead in the third period against a somewhat shocked Ottawa squad.

But, in what might actually be more troubling than getting down 3-1, the Caps could not hold a one-goal lead in the third period, coughing up the tying goal just five minutes after finally taking the lead. 

Eventually, Alexei Kovalev would score for Ottawa in overtime with 19 seconds remaining to put the final dagger in the hearts of Caps fans in sold out Verizon Center.

Both the tying and winning goals were scored while the Caps were killing a penalty.

It's the Caps' third loss in a row, and they have now won just two games in regulation in their last 11 games.  The league's No. 1 offense mustered just a season-low 20 shots on goal.  They were outshot 12-4 in the first period alone.

Coach Bruce Boudreau tried to talk away the rough start in the post-game press conference, instead opting to give praise to the evening's opponent.  And while it's true that Ottawa did block quite a few shots, Boudreau's defense let his squad down again, time after time.

Goalie Jose Theodore made 26 saves, but again did not look sharp.  He allowed another goal from a sharp angle, perhaps confused by defenseman Jeff Schultz' not-quite committed laying out to block the on-coming shot.

But Theodore was hung out to dry on several occasions not of his own making.  Shaone Morrisonn, playing in reduced capacity due to removal of four wisdom teeth, was part to blame on the first two goals of the game.

On the first, Morrisonn went for the big hit on the board and while he did make good contact, was left out of position on the play and could not get back to guard Peter Regin, who backhanded past a defenseless Theodore.

On the second goal, Morrisonn checked an Ottawa screener into Theodore, knocking him to the ice, and Jason Spezza tipped in a shot from the point without any resistance.

There were high points, though.

Alexander Semin had two goals, including a "how'd he do that?" shimmy, and he also finished a terrific stretch play with Nicklas Backstrom throwing the Hail Mary to Alex Ovechin, who slid the puck around two defensemen to hit Semin breaking in all alone.

Spark-plug Mathieu Perrault notched his second goal in as many games since his recall, and defenseman Mike Green hit a bomb for his 18th goal of the season.

But Boudreau can't like how his team is playing down the stretch--much like last season, when they apparently took their lesser-ranked opponents lightly.

"The difference between last year and this year is last year we were playing teams that were out of the playoffs, so our level of play came way down," Boudreau said.

"I think the teams we're playing [this season] are fighting for something. That was a hard-fought game. That wasn't a go-through-the-motions-type game. You had two teams wanting it. I don't think our level of play will be dropping, like it was last year."

Even as Boudreau spoke the words, it seemed more like he was trying to convince himself than the assembled media.