WASHINGTON – Like a shortstop fielding a line drive, Tomas Fleischmann stuck his glove in the air and caught the puck.
About a second later, he became the first of a half-dozen Washington Capitals to score – and none of the six were named Alex Ovechkin.
Those weren’t the usual suspects producing for the Capitals on Sunday as they wrapped up their home regular-season schedule with a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
“It’s great to finally have some scoring from all over the place,” said Eric Fehr, one of four Washington players to score in the third period. “Ovie’s been carrying the workload pretty much all year.”
Fehr’s goal was only his second since Feb. 26. Michael Nylander tallied for only the second time since Feb. 3. Minor-league callup Keith Aucoin kept up his bid for a spot on the playoff roster with his second goal in two games.
But Fleischmann was the one really slumping. He had 15 goals in mid-January but had scored only twice since then. He broke an 14-game drought when he gloved Nathan Oystrick’s clearing attempt and dropped the puck directly in front of goal for the easy shot past Johan Hedberg early in the first period.
“It was a break for me,” Fleischmann said. “I haven’t had a lot of bounces for me lately.”
It’s just what coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to see from player nicknamed “Flash.”
“The relief on his eyes when he finally scored was like, ‘Oh, man, I CAN play the game,”‘ Boudreau said. “You start to doubt yourself after a while, no matter who you are, when you have trouble scoring. I hope that adds a little confidence to his game.”
Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich – both more accustomed to finding the net – scored the final two goals for the Capitals, who moved two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils in the battle for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Each team has three games remaining.
Ovechkin remained at an NHL-leading 55 goals despite taking 11 shots, but he did get two assists in his pursuit of Evgeni Malkin for the league’s points title.
Washington trailed 3-2 after two periods, but Boudreau ranted at his players during the intermission and switched up the lines in the third.
“We were sleepwalking, it seemed like, for two periods,” Boudreau said. “I hope it doesn’t take me coming in and screaming and yelling to get them going. They’ve got to learn to do it on their own. You yell at your kids too much, they’ll tune you out.”
The Capitals finished with 29 wins at the Verizon Center, the second-most home victories in franchise history. Washington was virtually unbeatable on home ice during the first half of the season, winning 18 of its first 20, but took only 11 of the last 21.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 42nd goal, and Colby Armstrong, Jim Slater and Slava Kozlov also netted for Atlanta. Despite being out of playoff contention, the Thrashers had won four straight – including three against teams still in the post-season race.
“We kept up for two periods,” defenceman Tobias Enstrom said, “and it seemed like we got a little tired in the third and they ran us down a little bit.”
The two teams meet again in Atlanta on Tuesday.
“Definitely not the way we’ve been playing lately,” Oystrick said. “We’ve just got to shake it off and get ready for the next one.”
Notes: Aucoin scored his first power-play goal in the NHL and had his first multi-point game since Jan. 12, 2008, when he was with Carolina. … The Thrashers fended off a 5-on-2 power-play in the first period – if only sticks are counted. Slater and Colin Stuart had their sticks shatter within seconds of each other while on the penalty kill, but the Capitals were unable to convert despite several good chances before the puck was finally smothered to stop play. … Ovechkin’s point streak is at eight games (six goals, 10 assists). … Armstrong has a seven-game scoring streak (three goals, seven assists).