By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010; 12:21 AM
After fighting back from a one-goal deficit twice Saturday night against the Atlanta Thrashers, the Washington Capitals didn't want to let the game slip through their fingers. They needed a win, any kind of win, to snap their first losing streak of the season before several days of practice and their first major trip.
So once Atlanta's super sophomore Evander Kane fired the puck into a wide-open net in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, the Capitals buckled down further. Washington took six shots in the extra session, didn't allow any, and ended the contest on a backhander by Tomas Fleischmann 1 minute 37 seconds into the four-on-four overtime for a 4-3 win over the Thrashers.
The win, which also featured Alexander Semin's fourth career hat trick, snapped a two-game losing streak and marked the eighth straight time the Capitals have defeated Atlanta at Verizon Center.
"It would have been a tough pill to swallow if we hadn't come away with points going on three tough road games next week," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I knew [the Thrashers] were going to come out and be very good. They played really well, skated well; they didn't give us much of a chance to breathe [early]. But it is really difficult to keep up that pace."
Atlanta (3-4-1) dominated the beginning of the game and at one point in the second period led Washington (5-3) in shots on goal 21-6, but even then the Thrashers managed to only hold a one-goal lead. Andrew Ladd put the visitors on the board with 58 seconds remaining in the first period when he got two whacks at a rebound, pushing the puck under goaltender Michal Neuvirth's pad. It was the second straight game the Capitals allowed a power-play goal in the final minute of a previously scoreless period.
But the beginning of the second period marked the start of Semin's offensive onslaught. Skating down the right-side boards, Semin took a slap shot that appeared to surprise Atlanta goaltender Chris Mason, who stopped 40 of the 44 shots he faced.
"How many times can you try to get around guys?" Semin said through an interpreter of the brute-force shot that didn't feature any of extra flair. "I was just trying not to think about it and just hit it."
Kane's first goal of the game four minutes later gave the lead back to Atlanta, but the Capitals began to climb back in the contest. Washington appeared to tie it again when Mike Green directed the puck through traffic around the Atlanta net on the power play. The would-be goal was overruled by NHL replay officials in Toronto, who said the puck was kicked in.
By the end of the second period, though, the Capitals had started to even out the shot differential with 20 attempts of their own. In the third, Semin again took advantage of his opportunities.
On a delayed penalty call against the Thrashers' Ron Hainsey for pulling down Mathieu Perreault on a partial breakaway, Semin barreled to the net, stepped over players lying on the ice, scooped up the puck and fired it past Mason to make it 2-2.
"He played hard," Boudreau said of Semin. "The consistency has been there for sure. It's eight games in, but there have been no real lapses and [Saturday] he got rewarded for playing a good game."
Perreault, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears for Saturday's game, showed lingering chemistry with Semin from their experience playing together in the preseason. For the hat-trick tally, Perreault found Semin on the doorstep from his spot in the slot. The Capitals' sniper backhanded the puck into the yawning cage as Mason couldn't get over to the right post fast enough. Perreault finished his first NHL game of the season with a pair of assists and a plus-3 rating in less than 12 minutes of ice time.
"I played with him in preseason and it looks like we understand each other," Semin said.
Capitals notes: Green played only 5:39 - all on the power play - in his first game since missing the past three with an upper-body injury. . . . Semyon Varlamov is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury just a week after he was taken off the injured reserve list following a three-week stint with a groin injury.