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Erskine scores game winner as Caps defeat Thrashers, 6-4

By Katie Carrera

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.

By Katie Carrera  | November 14, 2010; 9:46 PM ET
Categories:  Atlanta Thrashers, John Erskine  
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Next: The importance of the Caps' fourth line


Terrific game from John Erskine tonight, and what a fight! Props to his linemate T. Sloan as well. Excellent job.

Posted by: Justafan | November 14, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

@tom. The puck bouncing over sticks, it is the ice. Puck bouncing off the glass off the top of the net and off the goalie is just a goalie not being able to buy a break.

Posted by: icehammer97 | November 14, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Huge game for Johnny E., I couldn't be more happy :) Nothing new as far as I'm concerned, I just wonder why GMGM hasn't signed him to an extansion already (2yrs at 1.5m and he'd be a bargain...he'd be revered in Philly or NYC; I, for one, don't want that to happen)..It's strange how the Thrashers can give us all we can handle (could've just as easily won the game) w/the likes of Thorburn, Eager, and Boulton in the lineup yet we can't find room for DJK. Erskine's fight should've sparked the team; how they butchered the ensuing pp left me incredulous...Good win, props to #4

Posted by: vermontcaps | November 14, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

If I may, let me bring over my comments from previous thread, since they somewhat apply re: Ersk. BTW, my name is tominsocal1 and I admit to having been an Erskine detractor. Let me add however that I'm not an Erskine bandwaggoner but that I and others have him talking him up since opening night. The goals are great but he's playeed all year with renewed vigor. If this keeps up, let's look for an extension come 1/1/11 (wow, that looks pretty cool!).

Now, some of those comments from last thread:

Last year the complaints were that Ovi was too much of a raging bull every game and if he didn't cut it out his career would be over by time 30 yrs old like Bobby Orr. Last I knew 3/14/10 Ovi plastered Brian Campbell into the end boards and got a suspension. Everyone said he needed to cut it out.

OK, so he cut it out! He still laid out some fine hits today. Maybe he's learning to pick time and place. Isn't this what everyone wanted? So, HOW CAN HE WIN?

Boudreau sent a message today. Ovi and his linemates were NOT on the ice in the final minute. This is the time, when the Caps are ahead, when BB "rewards" the best players that game with the chance for an empty netter. Often, Ovi, Semin, Backie,, Steckel, Erskine, Hendricks, Bradley (I think that's what I saw).

This means to me that BB wants to cut off the "bad behavior" before it gets ingrained. It was a good thing today to see Ersk out there with Hendricks and Steckel. I'll bet if you check icetime you will also find no forwards way above the others! This is because BB fed up with lackadaisical play and spread around the minutes.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 14, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse


You saw correctly, my friend.

They were out there with Green and Schultz. Once Stecks scored the empty netter, Sloan and Oisk came out with Laich, Johansson, and Stecks.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse these readers to the Washington Post Sports...and all these Caps fans rocking the red...for five weeks now...and no one has pointed out...not fan, not observer, not beat writer...



Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 14, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse


Where's Cstanton? Was that him at the glass yelling at Erskine to hold up ?

BB, get King in the line up before Erskine breaks his hand. Boulton is a job for DJK.
We need our defensemen healthy.

Gotta' wonder what GMGM is thinking with the situation between King and BB.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 15, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

I was really surprised that Neuvy was in net for the third. Even if the goals off his back were a bit freaky, he still bobbled the bisquit a bunch. But in the 3rd, Neuvy got his rythm along with the rest of the Caps. So more props to BB for staying with his #1 goalie and yet more props for demoting Flush to the 4th line and balancing out the minutes for the 3rd and 4th lines as Tom noted. That 2nd period, wow, outdid the floater FB left in the toilet in Buffalo.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | November 15, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

Ersk has been playing well this season and I was glad to see him get a goal. He put his mark on the Thrash after putting his mark on Boulton (and vice versa - ouch!). I'd be even happier if Ovie could go one game or even one power play without turning over the puck.

Posted by: Puckdawg69 | November 15, 2010 6:10 AM | Report abuse

OV is trying to do too much so the turnovers. He is a great player, but often double-teamed. To OV's credit, he is looking for the open player when he is double-teamed more so than in year's past. Hence, his goals down a bit and his assists up. I am actually happy that the Caps have three legit scorers on the top line so teams get burnt for over-playing OV. Semin and Backis have both benefitted this year and Knubs last year. Now the Caps need a legit 2nd line, which is a legit center away, imho.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | November 15, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

So in the previous thread before BB had his post game interview I said it looked to me in that game it looked like we were a team that needed a practice. And then BB gives his postgame and talks about how his team needs a practice and they systems was looking sloppy after 8 days with no practice.

I was not raised on is a sport I was drawn to, but had to figure out on my own, so I give myself a little pat on tha back now that I have started over the past few yeard saying things the coach says before I hear it from the coach :)

Posted by: capscoach | November 15, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Yet more proof that the players, coaches and CSN folks read CI!!! Saturday nights pregane Alan May stated that Holtby reminded him of Ron Hextall and Al Koken followed up by adding the name of Billy Smith as a comparison to Holtby. I have stated the exact same thing on numerous occassions in the past few weeks since he has been recalled.

We need to start getting paid for what we are posting here, the blatant plagiarism is getting ridiculous!!

Posted by: PhilR | November 15, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

A win is a win. I do like that BB is holding the superstars accountable for bad play. That play by OVI was really bad. That pass from Ovi to Semin was incredible. I like that the Caps are getting scoring from the all heart grinders.

Posted by: pkme | November 15, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

OK, I have to say it:


is a handlebar mustache.


is a Fu Manchu.

It doesn't count as a handlebar unless Erskine waxes it. ;-)

That said... POWER TO THE 'STACHE! Go Erskine!

Posted by: irockthered | November 15, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Keep that stache! It looks badass. Go Caps!

Posted by: LloydChristmas | November 15, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse


The play by Ovie was def. not good, but what was worse was when he was being double teamed at the top of the crease, NO ONE came to help him!!! I actually don't really fault Ovie for the shorty as much as whoever didn't come back to help him and cover on D.

Posted by: capscoach | November 15, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Haven't heard anything about Varly over the weekend (I admit I really didn't look that hard).

Anyone know his status?

Posted by: Moose33 | November 15, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Played yesterday and Hershey won 8-3. Faced 24 shots. The three goals came when the game was way out of hand. Hopefully a Bears fan can elaborate on whether the goals were soft or perhaps Varly got no support when the meaningless goals were scored. Also, an opinion regarding his rebound control from someone that saw the game would be nice.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 15, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

2 years ago neither Ovechkin nor Semin came back to assist in the defensive zone very often. Now we see both players deep in the zone fighting for the puck.

So, something has changed in their approach and that is leading to a much better overall effort.

Many of the recent mistakes have been by the rookies, Carlson and Alzner.

Alzner whiffed on a clearing shot right in front of the net against Buffalo which lead to a goal.

Carlson gave up the Vanek goal in OT when he had decent position in front of him coming into the zone. Last night he gave up the puck in the neutral zone twice with passes that should not have been made.

Hopefully over the next 65 games Carlson and Alzner will settle down and become more consistent.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | November 15, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Voted for the All Star Ballot.


Posted by: capscoach | November 15, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

@ capscoach

I definitely agree with what you're saying here -- and was saying the same thing as it was happening. As we all know, Ovi retrieved the puck and was focused on curling back up into play with the typical one-on-one coverage from behind but then Ladd read the play, came straight up the middle with momentum, simply took the puck and scored. He came from somewhere up in the thick of the play and another Cap had to see him, be tracking him, right? - at the very least to predict that they had to get back for D support when they saw what was developing? Nope, no support to be seen, at least from the TV angle provided. Perhaps someone who was at the game saw the play differently and there was an attempt made...

Anyway, to not see any other Caps showing up in the neutral zone to support a teammate who's back(it's a dangerous area to be left alone) especially on the power play, was the most disheartening thing to me. And then to have everyone laying the blame solely on Ovi is equally so.

Posted by: nena1 | November 15, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Voted for the All Star Ballot.


make sure u all write in Semin! Total BS he wasn't on the ballot!

Posted by: capscoach | November 15, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Dennis Maruk OWNED the Fu Manchu! Never forget that, Cap fans.

Posted by: CAP-lanta | November 15, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

didn't Greenie have a mustache too? he wasn't named on the list in the article.

Posted by: Bondra2Ovie | November 15, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

How come he didnt get credit for the first goal, for primary assist? Backstrom never touched the puck on that play?

Posted by: pacan | November 16, 2010 3:22 AM | Report abuse

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