Early jump extends Caps' streak to six with 4-3 win at Atlanta

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009

ATLANTA -- Washington Capitals won their sixth game in a row and earned two points on the road against a Southeast Division opponent on Thursday night. But you wouldn't have known it after seeing the scowl on Coach Bruce Boudreau's face as he emerged from the visitors' dressing room at Philips Arena, his hands stuffed in his pockets.

Boudreau had just watched his team build a three-goal lead against the Atlanta Thrashers, let up late in the second period, then hang on for a frantic 4-3 victory that got much too close for comfort in the waning moments.

Although the Capitals' effort was good enough to beat the Ilya Kovalchuk-less Thrashers, Boudreau knows it probably wouldn't have been good enough against a more formidable foe.

"We need to be able to finish teams off when we have the chance," he said. "We need that killer instinct and we haven't had that killer instinct. We let teams right back in the game."

The lack of killer instinct nearly ruined what began as a potential blowout before a sparse crowd.

In the first period, Alex Ovechkin extended his league-leading goal total with his 12 and 13th tallies of the season, marking his sixth two-goal performance in 12 games. Then early in the second, Brendan Morrison scored the Capitals' second power-play goal of the night, marking the first time since the season opener they recorded two on the same night.

But instead of clamping down, it seemed like some of the Capitals decided to give themselves the rest of the night off.

"I thought with about seven minutes to go in the second period, we thought this was going to be easy," Boudreau said. "And then we stopped skating and stopped playing. But I knew once they got one goal, just like last time, they would be flying. It's not like a faucet. You can't turn it on and off when you want."

But they definitely turned it off -- and it almost cost them the game.

With Tyler Sloan in the penalty box for hooking, Zach Bogosian scored the first of his two goals to cut the Capitals' lead to 3-1. That gave Atlanta the boost it needed in its first game without Kovalchuk, who is sidelined a month with a broken foot.

The Thrashers ended up putting 20 shots on goal in the third period alone, forcing goaltender Semyon Varlamov (38 saves) to repeatedly bail out his teammates.

Varlamov, however, was helpless to stop Todd White's breakaway goal with 2 minutes 23 seconds left to play. White sneaked behind Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn, and after taking a long pass from Slava Kozlov, broke in on Varlamov alone. Like that, it was 3-2 and the Capitals were left scrambling.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company