Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ovechkin Scores Twice as Caps Hang On

While his good friend Ilya Kovalchuk notched a pair of goals in last week's Capitals-Thrashers tilt in Atlanta, Alexander Ovechkin picked up the slack with the Thrashers' star injured this Thursday. The two-time Hart winner got two goals of his own as the Capitals grabbed a 4-3 win at Philips Arena for Washington's sixth straight victory.

The Caps' star scored a pair of goals to extend his lead in the Richard Trophy race and also added a nifty assist in the second period to retake the points lead as Washington moved to 8-2-2 on the season with one game left in the month of October.

However, like last week's game, the Capitals held a three-goal lead heading into the final frame, but the hosts thoroughly outplayed Washington over the last 20 minutes but got some nice goaltending by Semyon Varlamov to hang on for the win.

After a slow start to the contest, the Thrashers got the first extra-man advantage just under five minutes into the contest when Tom Poti was whistled for holding Maxim Afinogenov.

The Caps killed off the penalty, and got a power play of their own when Jim Slater was whistled for hooking Nicklas Backstrom, and cashed in. Halfway through the advantage, Mike Green did a nice curl pass to Ovechkin, who blasted the feed past Ondrej Pavelec for his league-leading 12th goal of the campaign with 9:57 left in the frame.

Slater got a chance for redemption at the 6:12 mark, as he was hauled down on a partial breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot, but one that Semyon Varlamov handled without too much trouble.

Ovechkin then boosted the lead to 2-0 when Backstrom picked off a bad Afinogenov pass in the Caps zone and then fed the breaking star and shot it past Pavelec at the 5:04 mark for his 6th multi-goal game of the month of October.

Washington finished the first outshooting Atlanta 13-8 and with a 2-0 lead, pushing their advantage in the first 20 minutes to a 15-5 count this month.

Afinogenov was whistled for another minor just 1:52 into the second, and although the Thrashers killed most of it, Evander Kane took another minor for a :15 5-on-3 advantage for Washington.

The Capitals scored on the Kane minor, as Ovechkin fed Brendan Morrison, who put a shot on Pavelec that the goalie got a glove on, but couldn't stop all the shot and the puck trickled in the net for a 3-0 edge 4:10 into the second. It also was a nice showing for Washington extra-man unit, who scored on two of their first three chances on the evening after scoring just two power-play goals in their last four games.

The Thrashers had trouble trying to get back in the contest minus their leading goal-scorer, and Atlanta's best chance came halfway through the period when Afinogenov couldn't covert on a good chance in front of Varlamov to keep the Thrashers scoreless.

Washington nearly got a fourth goal when Alexander Semin couldn't quite finish a nifty move with a couple of minutes left in the frame, but the Capitals were still firmly in control of the action on the ice as the period wound down.

The Thrashers did get on the board early in the third as Zach Bogosian blasted a puck past Varlamov just 1:23 into the season, delivering a shot that sprang back off the puck of the back of the net to cut Washington's lead to 3-1.

The tally woke up Atlanta, forcing Varlamov having to make a couple of nice saves to keep the Capitals up by two as the Thrashers took the first nine shots of the period before Ovechkin finally put one on the cage for Washington just before the fourteen-minute mark.

Atlanta had some more prime chances to cut the lead to just one, but Varlamov made some nice saves - despite the lack of support. Even a late power-play created by a nice dive by Mike Knuble only created a Thrashers shorthanded breakaway where the Capitals had to count on Varlamov to make the save.

Todd White then cut the lead with one with 2:23 to play, as he caught the Capitals on a bad line change and broke in to beat Varlamov and for the second time in a week, Atlanta roared back to make the Capitals sweat out what had been a comfortable lead.

However, Mike Knuble allowed the Caps to breathe a bit easier, firing a puck into an empty net with :52.1 left in regulation to grab the win. Atlanta scored a goal at the final buzzer, but thanks to Knuble's empty-netter, it just made the final 4-3.

Varlamov moved to 5-0-0 on the season and earned his ninth straight regular-season victory to start his career with a 38-save effort.

The Caps, who recorded nine wins in the tenth month only once in their history (1991-92) will get a chance to match that mark in their final game of October. Washington heads home for a quick turnaround, playing the Islanders for the second time in a week when New York pays a visit to Verizon Center for John Tavares' first appearance in D.C.

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