WASHINGTON – Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec had plenty of help in his latest superb effort against the Washington Capitals.
Not all the assistance came from his teammates.
Pavelec stopped 45 shots, Andrew Ladd and Rich Peverley each had a goal and an assist, and the Thrashers beat the Capitals 3-1 on Saturday night to snap a nine-game losing streak in Washington.
It was the seventh win in eight games for the Thrashers, a run that began with Pavelec blanking Washington in Atlanta on Nov. 19. Pavelec was virtually impenetrable in this game, too; the lone flaw in his performance was a second-period goal by Alex Ovechkin.
“Our guys did a great job,” Pavelec said. “I always saw the first shot and they cleared the rebound, so it was a great team effort.”
According to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, Washington made it easy for Pavelec to be successful.
“He made some good saves. I’m not denying that. And he feels very comfortable, obviously, playing us,” Boudreau said. “But I don’t think it was one of those games where he had to make a tremendous amount of second saves on the same play. That’s what scores goals.”
Boudreau said his players weren’t aggressive enough trying to secure rebounds or getting close to the net.
“It’s a lack of commitment to paying the price to score,” Boudreau said. “We’re all wanting to score. But we’re staying on the perimeter hoping to get the puck rather than being the guy that’s going to the puck.”
The Thrashers are 3-1-1 against the Capitals after going 0-6 in last season’s series, and Pavelec is 3-8 against Washington.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. “We talk every game about steps and details. It’s just another step, but it’s a step against one of the best teams in hockey. You have to like that, you have to enjoy it. You really need to savour the moment.”
Although Ovechkin ended his goal-scoring drought at a career-high tying nine games, the Capitals fell to 12-2-1 at home with their first loss against Atlanta at Verizon Center since February 2008.
“We didn’t find rebounds,” Ovechkin lamented.
Washington went 0 for 5 on the power play, mostly because Pavelec was so sharp.
“If you look at the power play, we’d have everybody in a circle looking to take one-timers,” Boudreau said. “There was no second-shot capability.”
Ovechkin scored with 49 seconds left in the second period, beating Pavelec with a slap shot from the left circle to bring the Capitals to 2-1. A cross-ice pass from Alexander Semin set up Ovechkin’s 11th goal, which came on Washington’s 34th shot.
But Ladd made it 3-1 at 2:27 of the third period, scoring on the power play against goalie Semyon Varlamov off a fine crossing pass from Peverley.
“It was a deflating goal,” Boudreau said.
Pavelec made the lead stand up. After turning aside 20 of 21 shots in the second period, he added 11 saves over the final 20 minutes.
“Our goalie has been really good,” Ramsay said. “He was great again.”
Ovechkin was held without a shot during a scoreless first period despite being on the ice for all but 16 seconds of Washington’s lone power play.
The Thrashers went up 1-0 at 7:57 of the second period when Peverley won a faceoff in his end, then got in position to deflect in a shot by Dustin Byfuglien.
Less than two minutes later, Atlanta’s Alexander Burmistrov rushed the net from beneath the left circle and lifted a shot over Varlamov’s right shoulder.
Notes: D Tobias Enstrom played in his 273rd game with Atlanta, tied with Andy Sutton for 10th place in franchise history. … Washington has gone six games without allowing a first-period goal. … Atlanta has scored first in 12 of its last 14 games.