The new era of Atlanta Thrashers hockey got off to a solid start, as they beat Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals 4-2 in Atlanta on friday night.
Evander Kane collected his first two of the year, while former Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Ladd and free agent newcomer Fredrik Modin also earned their first goals of the year. Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, and Nik Antropov also picked up an assist each.
The game got off to an odd start when Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec apparently lost consciousness and fell to the ice while the play was at the other end. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, while not even 3 minutes of the game had transpired. After the game, it was revealed that test were negative and he was feeling okay, but would stay in a hospital overnight.
Chris Mason took over for Pavelec and logged 29 saves on 31 shots. That’s exactly the type of goaltending the Thrashers wanted when they signed Mason to a two-year contract this summer.
Washington got off to an early lead when Tomas Fleischman made a nifty pass to an unmarked Brooks Laich, who slammed it home from the back door. Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom was responsible from the Thrashers point-of-view, but the Capitals looked in mid-season form on the play.
The Capitals lead didn’t last too long, however, as Evander Kane scored his first of the year on a sweet snipe from the top of the faceoff circles. The play was unassisted. Not only did Kane show off his lethal wrist shot, but he also looked to be much bigger in comparison to last season. He definitely put on size over the summer. He was strong on the puck and made his presence known on the ice.
The game went scoreless through the rest of the first and much of the second, until Andrew Ladd deflected Johnny Oduya’s wrister from the point for his first of the year and the go-ahead goal.
Late in the second, the Thrashers were awarded a penalty shot on a questionable call by referee Wes McCauley. Capitals defenseman Mike Green was whistled for covering the puck in the crease. Replay showed the he used his glove to make a hand-pass, which is not illegal in the crease. However, the Thrashers got a break and took advantage of it. Evander Kane took responsibility and buried his second of the game, and the eventual game winner, behind Capitals goaltender Michael Neuvirth.
The Capitals top line of Mike Knuble, Alexander Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin cut the lead to one midway through the third period on another smooth cross-ice play. But Bruce Boudreau’s Capitals couldn’t build momentum as Fredrik Modin sealed the deal late in the third period on a nice wrist shot right off the face-off.
Key Points For Atlanta:
-When Pavelec went down early and gave up a goal shortly thereafter, the Thrashers could have easily lost composure and let Washington run away on the score board. Ramsay noted in his post-game presser that the veteran leadership pulled the team together to get back into the game.
-The penalty killing units got it done on all 3 minor penalties they took. Brent Sopel logged 3:40 of shorthanded time, more than any other Thrasher.
-The Thrashers blocked 23 shots to Washington’s 12. Brent Sopel also led the way in this category with 8 blocked shots.
-Evander Kane stepped up, big time. The Thrashers franchise has a lot resting on this young player, and he showed he’s got what it takes to lead the team offensively.
-Coach Craig Ramsay kept the tempo up for Atlanta and kept all 4 lines rolling quickly throughout the game. The Thrashers performance should be considered a huge success from a coaching standpoint.
-The forecheck was solid all night. Newcomers Fredrik Modin and Nigel Dawes were brought in for that purpose and they delivered. Bryan Little also seemed to have a hop in his step over last year, and kept up the pressure in the offensive zone.
-The Thrashers have to build momentum from here. They’ve got a quick turnaround as the head to Tampa Bay for a division matchup against the Lightning on Saturday. After that, they will head out west to face formidable Western Conference teams like Los Angles and San Jose. It’s going to be a tough stretch but if they can continue the play they showed against Washington, they will pick up some points.
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Written by Kevin Thurston