Pavelec, Thrashers Drop Caps

The scoreboard says that the Thrashers beat the Capitals 3-1 Saturday at Verizon Center. It says that the Thrashers have outscored the Southeast division leaders 8-1 in their last two meetings.

But tonight’s contest couldn’t have been more different than the last time these two met when Atlanta rocked the Capitals 5-0 a couple weeks ago.

The Capitals peppered Ondrej Pavelec with 46 shots. They dominated time of possession. The effort level was generally there, but sometimes the other goalie is just hot,  and frankly tonight was a little too reminiscent of a certain playoff series that took place around these parts in April 2010.

The Thrashers struck quickly in succession to grab a 2-0 lead before a stunned crowd in the middle of the second period. Rich Peverly tipped a Dustin Byfuglien shot for the first tally followed by an awkward shot by Alex Burmistrov on which goalie Semyon Varlamov appeared to go down early.

The Capitals seemed to be on the comeback trail when Alexander Semin hit Alex Ovechkin on a gorgeous feed to break the captain’s ten game goal-scoring drought right before the intermission. But Andrew Ladd doused any momentum with an early third period power play strike to put the Thrashers ahead by two and that was all she wrote.

Odds and Ends

- The Capitals may have outshot the Thrashers and dominated time of possession. However, the first Atlanta goal was a bi-product of Peverly setting himself up in front of Varlamov and getting a tip-in. The Capitals didn’t do enough of that. That means you, Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble. Of course, it didn’t help that Nicklas Backstrom was kicked out of the faceoff dot in the defensive zone, forcing Ovechkin to take (and lose) the draw.

- More on Knuble and Fehr – sooner or later those two are going to have to start finishing their chances if the Capitals are going to come close to being as dangerous offensively as last season. The two fired a combined eight shots at Pavelec, some of which could have been more accurately placed. Fehr is now shooting a paltry 6.9% of his this season, which ranks 377th in the league, but perhaps even more alarming is Knuble’s 6.8% rate. Considering that Knuble has been over 15% every year since the lockout, that has to raise some concerns. Or, for the glass-half-full crowd, he’s due for a serious breakout.

- Some more fun with numbers from the Capitals’ current two-game losing streak against Dallas and Atlanta: The Capitals outshot their opponents 84-54 but were outscored 5-2. (And yes, every hot goalie the Capitals run into will be compared to Jaroslav Halak until this team wins another playoff series.)

- Anyone else see Ovechkin literally breathe a huge sigh of relief when he broke the slump? You knew the Thrashers were in serious trouble on that shift after John Carlson and Karl Alzner held the point and prevented several clears until the visitors ran out of gas completely. Then Byfuglien’s stick broke. Still, Ovechkin missed or fanned on several other chances throughout the night and doesn’t look 100%.

- The referees are starting to hear boos from Washington fans before the games even start, and can anyone blame them? The Capitals are tied for 21st in the league in power play opportunities with the Nashville Predators. Meanwhile, they’ve been saddled with the fourth most minor penalties. Does that sound right to anyone? It doesn’t make sense for a team with this much speed and skill, and their defense isn’t weak enough to warrant those numbers either. That said, they failed to convert on any of their four PP chances tonight.

And so the Capitals dropped to 2-3 against their division foes, with one of those two wins having come in overtime. At this point it’s a lock that the Capitals draw the Thrashers as the eight seed in the first round.

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