Caps Close In on Second Seed
Backup Goalie Varlamov Stymies Thrashers in Opener of Three-Game Trip: Capitals 4, Thrashers 2
Wednesday, April 8, 2009; Page D01
ATLANTA, April 7 -- In each of their previous visits to Philips Arena this season, the Washington Capitals left wondering how an Atlanta Thrashers team so far behind them in the standings had beaten them so badly.
In the third and final meeting here, rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov made sure they had no such regrets.
Varlamov stopped 29 shots, including the final 18 he faced, and Sergei Fedorov scored an insurance goal late in the third period to help the Washington Capitals earn a ho-hum 4-2 victory that was described by Coach Bruce Boudreau as "ugly."
"I think we played just as good as we had to play," said Boudreau, whose team had suffered 7-4 and 5-1 losses here earlier this season.
The victory, Washington's fourth in the past five games (4-0-1), edged it closer to clinching the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals now lead the New Jersey Devils 106-102 with both teams having two games left to play.
Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, registered a pair of assists but failed to gain any ground on Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in the race for a second straight scoring title. Malkin notched two assists in the Penguins' 6-4 win in Tampa to retain a two-point cushion, 110-108. Malkin also has two games remaining.
Ovechkin was pleased with the result but not particularly impressed with the Capitals' performance or the revamped top line, which comprised him, Fedorov and Alexander Semin. The trio accounted for two goals, but Ovechkin said they lacked cohesion and combined for too many turnovers.
"There were no emotions, no good crowd, you know?" he said. "It was hard to play hockey here. It's a hard situation for Atlanta right now. It's only two games in the season and they go to vacation. We're in the playoffs. All of our minds are in the playoffs."
Ovechkin was also the subject of some teasing by the Thrashers that Boudreau called "tasteless."
Late in the first period, the game production staff poked fun at Ovechkin's Eastern Motors commercial in which the reigning MVP sings and dances awkwardly. The video ended with Thrashers all-star Ilya Kovalchuk looking at the camera and shaking his head before saying, "Ovie, next time call me."
Ovechkin cracked a smile when it was shown and later said he had no problem with the video. Boudreau, though, was not happy.
"I like the stuff they do, but I thought that was over the line," Boudreau said. "I know it was all in fun, but that was over the line. I wasn't a big fan of that. If they want to mock their own players, fine, mock their own players like that."