Thrashers visit Capitals, seek fifth straight win

By Anthony Giornalista
Stats Senior Writer

Atlanta (34-38-6) at Washington (47-23-8), 3:00 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Atlanta Thrashers have been doing an
excellent job of playing the role of spoiler down the stretch.
It’s too late for them to hurt the Washington Capitals’
Southeast Division title hopes.

After clinching their second straight division championship, the
Capitals look to avoid a letdown against the surging Thrashers
in the opener of a home-and-home series Sunday.

There was a wild celebration last year after Washington finished
at the top of the Southeast with a win in its final
regular-season game.

This season, the Capitals (47-23-8) were much more subdued after
securing the division title despite losing to Buffalo, 5-4, in
overtime Friday night. Washington built a big early lead in the
Southeast, earning the fifth division title in its history with
four games to spare.

“Before the season started, we said we were going to win, and we
have one goal in mind,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, “and
we aren’t there yet.”

Washington, trying to hold off New Jersey for second place in
the Eastern Conference, plays its next two against an Atlanta
team that continues to play hard even though it has been
eliminated from playoff contention.

The Thrashers (34-38-6) have won four straight and five of six,
including wins over the top three contenders for the last
playoff spot in the East. They beat Florida, 3-1, on Friday
night, Buffalo, 3-2, in overtime two days earlier and the New
York Rangers on March 26.

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“We don’t have the playoffs, so April 11 is our last game of the
season,” Atlanta center Rich Peverley said. “I don’t want to
stop playing hockey, but we have to. We’re just trying to make
the most of it. It’s too bad because we have a pretty good team
going forward.”

The Thrashers have been competitive against the Capitals this
season, winning two of four contests. Atlanta, though, is 0-2
at Washington, allowing the Capitals to convert 41.7 percent
(5-for-12) of their power-play chances.

Atlanta’s penalty-killing unit ranks near the bottom of the
league, stopping just 75.4 percent of its opponents’ chances.
Washington, meanwhile, has a chance to lead the league in
power-play percentage for the first time in its history, taking
advantage of 25.6 percent of its opportunities.

The Capitals are 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) with the man advantage
in their last four games.

Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play versus the Sabres,
raising his league-leading goal total to 55. The star winger
has a seven-game points streak (six goals, nine assists) and has
45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) in 28 games versus Atlanta.

Peverley, meanwhile, had gone 10 straight games without a goal
for Atlanta before scoring two in the third period against the

The center carried the Thrashers offensively with winger Ilya
Kovalchuk’s five-game goal streak coming to an end. Kovalchuk
has one goal and four assists in his last four games versus the
Capitals after being held off the scoresheet in the previous
three meetings.