Erskine scores game winner as Caps defeat Thrashers, 6-4
Maybe I should have titled this blog post "The Power of the Mustache," because there's a good chance some of the Caps -- particularly John Erskine -- may keep the accessory beyond the month of November. Erskine has four points in the past five games while sporting a handlebar mustache, and his blast from the left point against the Thrashers beat a screened Ondrej Pavelec and was the go-ahead goal in Washington's 6-4 win Sunday.
"Yeah, the 'stache has been good luck this month," Erskine said. "I talked to the wife and I might be keeping it for a while."
In seven November games, the Capitals who are growing mustaches for "Movember" -- Erskine, Jeff Schultz, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera -- have recorded 11 goals, 25 points and the team is 6-0-1.
Against the Thrashers, Erskine and his defense partner Tyler Sloan both had strong games and combined for three points and a plus-four rating. Neither of the pairing is expected to contribute points on a regular basis but in the last six games they've combined for nine points.
"They're offensive juggernauts," Coach Bruce Boudreau said, bringing laughs in his postgame presser. "I think you need somebody other than Mike Green scoring goals and getting points from the back end if you want to be successful and those guys are getting them and that's great."
--Erskine also had a doozy of a fight with Eric Boulton in the second period. But while it was arguably the most entertaining fight of the Capitals' season so far, Atlanta scored on the next shift so it's hard to say Washington gained any energy from it. The crowd certainly enjoyed it, though.
If not for a scoring change on the first Capitals goal that took away his assist, Erskine would have had a Gordie Howe hat trick.
--It was a weird game to be a goaltender. Atlanta starter Chris Mason had a rocky outing, to put it lightly, and struggled to handle the puck on all of the 16 shots he faced. To the Capitals' credit, they sensed that Mason was fighting the puck and did everything they could to get chances on net and maximize the damage.
Then Michal Neuvirth had the puck bounce off his back and toward the net, where it was helped along by Rich Peverly to make it 2-1 in the first period. When the Thrashers' Andrew Ladd had a short-handed breakaway in the second, Neuvirth made the initial save before Bryan Little poked at the puck and sent it caroming off the top of the goaltender's mask and once again into the net.
--There's a full breakdown of the second-period ugliness in my game story for tomorrow's print edition but right now it definitely seems like the Capitals are bound to have a letdown at one point of the game or another. For such a long time they were slow out of the gate and after focusing on that 20 minutes this weekend the lapse transferred over to the second period.
Washington, as Boudreau said, "righted the ship" and had what seemed to be a better turnaround effort in the third period than the night before. The Capitals out-shot the Thrashers 13-7, out-hit them 8-3 and responded the way they needed to after nearly every player on the ice committed a turnover in the second.
"In the third period I thought we were great," Boudreau said. "We took advantage of our chances, we could have scored a couple more goals I thought just by playing good defensively. When we understand we can do that with the lead we'll be a good team."
Said Green, who added his fifth goal of the season against the Thrashers: "We were a desperate hockey team [in the third]. When you're back up against the wall and you are in that position, you have to make sure you are doing everything right or else you aren't going to win in this league. Tonight we came through."
--In addition to scoring his second goal of the season with an empty-netter, David Steckel won 19 of 23 faceoffs. Entering Sunday's game, Steckel ranked second in the NHL in draws with a 63 percent success rate.
--Under Boudreau the Capitals are 30-7-1 against Southeast Division foes at Verizon Center.
--The Capitals are taking Monday off but will return to the ice for practice on Tuesday.
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