Given that the Atlanta Thrashers and Washington Capitals had both played Saturday night, it was fair to expect some sloppy play when the two teams met Sunday night. That’s exactly what unfolded at Verizon Center where the Capitals emerged victorious 5-4 thanks to unexpected hero John Erskine, who netted the game-winning goal late in the third.
Granted, the Caps were playing their fourth game in three nights, but this was perhaps the sloppiest they’d looked all season. Not to exonerate the Thrashers, who played down to the level of their opponent in the “ugly” department. Both coaches will surely be eager to burn the game film and forget this one ever happened.
Still, even at their worst the Capitals are usually good for one dominant period per game, and tonight they took over the third as they outshot the Thrashers 13-7 in the final frame and found the back of the net twice.
Odds and Ends:
Michal Neuvirth has now hit the .900 save percentage mark just twice in his last seven starts. Some of that is bad luck, a lot of it ties into the fact that he looks a split-second slower and is allowing dangerous rebounds more and more frequently. Not to say he won’t stick, but maybe Caps fans should put the “Michal Neuvirth: 2010-11 Vezina Trophy Winner” T-shirts on hold.
Erskine, who went scoreless for the last two seasons, now has two goals in four games. The big guy deserves some credit, not only for the killer mustache but for throwing down the gloves again tonight and, generally speaking, providing adequate defense for a third-pair starter so far.
The revamped Capitals’ penalty-kill has been put under an immense amount of strain this week. They had to withstand an extended 5-on-3 against the Rangers, two double-minor high sticking penalties in Buffalo and another extended five-on-three tonight against the Thrashers. Of those four situations, the opposition has scored twice including the Thrashers tonight in the first period.
Matt Hendricks has emerged as a pleasant surprise and is now a mainstay in Bruce Boudreau’s lineup. The rugged winger plays with a nasty streak, skates well and even chips in a little offense from time to time just like his counterpart Matt Bradley. Kudos to Caps GM George McPhee for picking him up off the scrap heap.
When the team wins six in a row, a lot of the fizzures that might cause problems down the road tend to get ignored. Well, the center position is a problem for the Capitals. Tomas Fleischmann has just three points in his last 10 games and Marcus Johansson has one point in eight games this year. That’s not gonna cut it in the long run.
Alex Ovechkin was brilliant in the first period with a goal and a beautiful feed to setup Alex Semin’s tally. However, his second period turnover to allow a Thrashers short-handed breakaway to tie the game was downright irresponsible.
Brooks Laich is quietly putting together a very strong season while playing great two-way hockey. Opponents hardly ever score when he’s on the ice and he’s on pace for another 20+ goals.
The Caps have set a high standard for themselves and over the last two nights they haven’t looked up to par, yet they’ve managed three of four points on back-to-back nights. Caps fans will be in panic mode if they play like in March, but for now the points will do.