After beating the New York Rangers for a sweet dozen consecutive victories, the Capitals returned home to host the Kovy-less Atlanta Thrashers as a snowstorm of epic proportions overtook the D.C. region. Last night's game marked yet another momentous accomplishment by Alex Ovechkin as he tallied goal number 500, deking the puck between Michael Rozsival's legs and whipping it into the net with one hand - a mind-blowing play that even got love from not typically puck-friendly ESPN. The Great8 now leads the league in both points and goals, while team mate Nick Backstrom joins him on the elite list of points leaders. When Hockey Mom ventured out for a Starbucks (my last one before being stuck inside with boisterous teenage boys for who knows how long), she was thrilled to see a photo of the dancing duo of Ovi and Backstrom doing their signature shoulder bump on the page A-1 of the Washington Post!
While the Caps were celebrating another milestone, the Atlanta Thrashers were dealing with the aftermath of losing their captain, Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. In a deal that had the rumor mills buzzing all week, Kovalchuk was traded to the New Jersey Devils yesterday in exchange for Nic Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, the poster boy for 'how not to hit' and recently suspended QMJHL player Patrice Cormier; and a first round draft pick to Atlanta.
The panic-inducing weather forecast may have deterred many snow-weary Caps fans, but there were still plenty on hand to cheer the boys on and welcome back defenseman Mike Green back to the ice after serving his three-game suspension. Michal Neuvirth made the trek from Hershey and got the nod in net for the evening. Karl Alzner also donned a jersey for the occasion. The Capitals and their faithful followers were not sure what to expect from this Thrashers team in the wake of their fresh personnel shake up - they were bound to either instigate a blowout or experience a total meltdown. But the boys from the South got on the board first with a goal from defenseman Tobias Enstrom. Alex Ovechkin, continuing to add to his impressive stats, broke his stick and after getting a replacement in mid-stride, snapped a rocket past Thrashers' net minder Ondrej Pavelec to tie it. The first period also saw an incident that's become all too commonplace in today's NHL, a retaliation after a clean hit. In this instance, Caps' big man John Erskine rocked a Thrash center with a train wreck (but textbook clean) hit and Chris Thorburn took it upon himself to challenge Big Johnny. Erskine landed a few nice lefts before Thorburn knocked him to the ice; Thorburn was then escorted off after being slapped with the instigator penalty (as he should have been).
The second period saw Nicklas Backstrom light the lamp, the spectacular center continues to pile up points almost as fast as the snow piling up outside the Phone Booth! Despite being outshot through the second and third periods, the Capitals added some padding to their lead with two beautiful goals from Jason Chimera and Alex Semin in the final period to give the boys a 4-1 advantage. The Thrash were the benefactors of a Capitals' "oopsie" as the guys in red gave up the puck on their power play. Rich Peverley took it and sprinted towards Michal Neuvirth, while Alex Semin used his own speed to try and cut Peverley off at the pass. Instead, Semin ended up sliding into the crease and kicked the puck in himself to give Atlanta a late period tally...hey, these things happen sometimes. Alas, it was too little, too late for the Thrashers.With their goal tender pulled for the extra man, Mike Green made the bulls-eye in an empty net for a final score of 5-2 (and free wings for the happy fans if Glory Days is open during the blizzard of 2010)!
Another exceptional effort, especially for the young goalie Neuvirth with an outstanding 43 saves! Neuvy was expecially gracious in the post-game interview in his beaming commentary on Jose Theodores' role in the current record-breaking streak. On a less positive note, Nick Backstrom left the game and did not return - it could be a recurrence of migraines that have plagued him before or a more serious undisclosed injury. We'll all be waiting eagerly for good news on Nick as the vengeful Pittsburgh Penguins swoop in (or waddle in through 30 feet of snow) on Sunday.
Hockey Mom hopes all of you stay safe and warm during this weekend's storm and that we indeed are able to see the much anticipated rematch of the Caps/Pens on Sunday!