With a chance to set the club record for the best start in the first 20 games, the Washington Capitals laid an egg in Atlanta on Friday night. The Caps came out soft while Atlanta was determined and physical and as a result the Thrashers potted three goals in the first 10 minutes en route to a laugher at Phillips Arena. The final count was 5-0 and the Thrashers have now defeated the Caps twice this season against two losses. Washington drops to 14-5-1 overall.
Braden Holbty got the call in net for this one and the young Saskatchewan native had a very short and horror show evening. It all went bad when Tyler Sloan (-4) turned it over up the boards and then allowed Ben Eager to beat him to the cage and deflect one by #70 just 2:42 into the contest. Then when trying to play the puck in the slot, Holtby was hooked by teammate Jeff Schultz (-2) and that allowed Nik Antropov to deposit the biscuit into an empty net at 8:52. Just 15 seconds later Evander Kane scored from a bad angle after another Washington poor play and that ended Holtby’s night as he allowed three tallies on just five shots.
After that the Caps put some sustained pressure on for about the next 20 minutes but they could not solve Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who previously had a 1-8 record against Washington. Pavelec benefitted from three posts hit by the Caps but overall his team outworked Washington and deserved to win. In addition to losing this contest, the Capitals also lost Mike Knuble for the game and perhaps even longer when he took a puck in the mouth. He very well could have fractured his jaw based on where he got hit.
The only positives for the night were the inspired play of Nicklas Backstrom up front and the d-pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson was fairly solid. All three of those players were even on the night. In addition, Michal Neuvirth came in and stopped 29 of 31 saves, including 14 of 15 in the third period when the Caps pretty much mailed it in.
On Saturday night the Capitals and their fans have a chance to forget all about the stinker in Atlanta when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the Verizon Center at 7pm. Philadelphia is in second place in the Eastern Conference despite coming off of Thursday night’s 8-7 loss to Steven Stamkos (five points in that tilt) and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brian Boucher took the defeat in goal for Philly after Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals on the 11 shots he faced. Any lack of intensity that Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s club showed on Friday should be a distant memory because the boys in red, white, and blue simply do not like the guys from Philadelphia. This will be an entertaining game, for sure.
NOTE: For those attending Saturday night’s game, please bring canned food or donate money on your way into our game. The Washington Capitals, Tires Plus, Bridgestone, Comcast SportsNet, Mix 107.3, the Edge 105.9, the Examiner and the Capital Area Food Bank are teaming up to host the canned food drive.
The Capitals players’ wives and girlfriends will be accepting donations when doors open at 6 p.m. at the F Street Entrance to Verizon Center. The first 2,000 fans to donate will receive a Nicklas Backstrom poster. The Capitals and their partners urge all Caps fans to donate at least one can of food to help end hunger in the Washington metropolitan area. The Capitals players’ wives and girlfriends will also accept monetary donations; one dollar can buy three meals. Once again this year Tires Plus and Bridgestone Tires are donating $7,500 to the Capitals food drive.
“This is something very special to me, feeding the homeless the last two years really opens up your eyes,” said Nicklas Backstrom, team spokesperson for the canned food drive. “The fans have come out in support of this worthwhile cause in the past and I hope they do the same this year.”