Sunday, November 14, 2010 8:28 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
Today's game had the look of so many others for the Capitals this year. It turned out to be another victory, but it was littered with mistakes that coaches and players alike won't stomach very well. I am not trying to rain on anyone's parade. The Caps are sitting on top of the standings with 13 wins in 18 games. They are practically invincible at home. What worries me though is the practice of making everything more difficult than it has to be.
The home team raced out to a very good start in this late afternoon tilt. The game was marked by one crazy bounce after another and Alex Ovechkin was treated to one of those 90 seconds into the first period. His wrist shot which was on its way to being harmless was redirected into the Atlanta goal by Thrashers goalie Chris Mason. Mike Green gave the Caps a 2-0 lead with another shot that clicked in off of traffic in front to beat Mason.The Thrashers managed to get one of those fluky bounces to go their way around the 13 minute mark. Toby Enstrom's long slapper hit the back glass and caromed to the crease where Rich Peverly tipped it off of Michal Neuvirth's posterior and into the goal.The prettiest goal of the night came via an Ovechkin saucer pass that hit Alex Semin in stride for him to deke Mason and pot his team-leading 13th goal.Facing a 3-1 deficit you might have figured a tired Atlanta team would have just packed up and mailed the rest of the night in. That was not going to be the case, as their spirits were lifted continuously in the second period in part by Washington's poor play.Andrew Ladd managed to squeeze one through Neuvirth from a severe angle to make it 3-2. The Caps came right back 71 seconds later to build the lead back to two when Matt Hendricks cleaned up a rebound of a Green shot and banked one off Mason. Thrashers Head Coach Craig Ramsay lifted Mason for Ondrej Pavelec and the team responded.
Bryan Little stuffed a snapshot past Neuvirth at 3:07 of the second. The game was tied at the nine minute mark when Ladd stripped the puck from Ovechkin at center, waltzed in on a breakaway and had his rebound swatted into the net by Little for a shorthanded goal. The turnovers were bound to catch up to the Caps and they fueled Atlanta's comeback.
The ultimate hero of the game made his presence felt in a heavyweight fight in the second frame. John Erskine slugged it out with Thrasher tough guy Eric Boulton in one of the best hockey fights you are going to see. Both guys were throwing massive rights and landing more than a few of them.
Erskine's best punch was saved for last, when he drilled a game-winning slapshot past Pavelec with 6:49 to go in regulation. The Caps secured the victory with much more disciplined play from there on out. Neuvirth made a few key stops, and the team tightened up along the boards and at the faceoff dots. David Steckel finished Atlanta off with an empty netter in the final minute.
Next up a return engagement with Buffalo on Wednesday. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes!