A bounce-back win for the Caps tonight, if not a fairly up and down one. The Caps were dominant for most of the match, punctuated by a few brainfarts that turned a game they should have won handily into a one-goal game.
It looked like this one would be a laugher early. Just like Tuesday night's game with Philadelphia, the Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead on power play goals by Alex Semin and Brooks Laich. But much like Tuesday, the opposition goalie (Kari Lehtonen in this case) settled in and the Thrash were able to get a power play goal of their own by Ilya Kovalchuk after a foolish roughing penalty by Alex Ovechkin (yes, Ovie was mad after the Thrash got away with a high stick, still no excuse to lose your mind and put the team shorthanded.) The defense had two breakdowns and both led to Atlanta goals.
Nonetheless, the Caps were able to take complete command of this sucker after Eric Fehr got his 10th goal, showing some stick-to-itive-ness on a blocked shot and dribbling one by Lehtonen. Mike Green got his 9th goal of the month, 23rd of the season and 15th on the power play. Greener also had an adventure of a shift in the 3rd period: He had a bad giveaway at the blue line, hustled back into his own end and absolutely creamed Colin Stuart with as good an open ice hit as you will see. I think I am starting to believe the Norris hype a little bit.
Michal Neuvirth played well in his second start, although, other than the two breakaways and Kovalchuk's power play goal into an empty net (set up by a pretty piece of passing by the Thrash) the Caps D did a good job of limiting the shots. Neuvirth did a good job of staying in front of the shoots he did see. I'm starting to think Bruce Boudreau should give the kid a few more starts, if for no other reason than the fact that the defense seems to protect him a little more than Jose Theodore. The Caps limited the Thrash to just 24 shots on goal.
However, the star of the game was Alex Semin. The guy flat out terrorized Lehtonen and the Thrashers D all night, going to the net, utilizing his superior puck handling ability and lightning quick release to create quality scoring chances. Semin finished with a goal and two assists. A motivated, hard-working Semin, like the one we saw tonight, can be absolutely lethal. Now if only we could get him to not look so tool-ish in his glamour shots...
Now we shall see how the Caps get up for the challenge of this weekend, with back-to-back games in Boston and home vs Florida. Jose Theodore should be back in net against Boston but I'd like to see Neuvirth against Florida. Since its two afternoon games, important afternoon games, Theo will probably be in net for both but I hope Coach Boudreau sees the difference in the team defense when the kid is in there and lets him play a few more games leading up to the playoffs.
So until Saturday, let's chalk up one more...for the good guys.