Fleischmann Feeling 'The Mojo'
Simeon Varlamov needed a big performance to show the coaching staff that he's ready to be the Caps' backup in the playoffs. Well, he certainly delivered one.
Varlamov was arguably the best player on the ice tonight as the Caps edged the Thrashers, 4-2, at Philips Arena. The 20-year-old stopped 29 shots, including the final 18 he saw.
"I think he stood on his head," Sergei Fedorov said. "It's not easy to make those saves. He saved our [butts]."
Some other (brief) thoughts:
Alex Ovechkin registered two assists tonight. But so did Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who leads Ovechkin, 110-108, in the race for the scoring title. Both players have two games left.
The Caps now have a four-point lead on New Jersey in the race for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Devils lost 4-1 to the woeful Leafs. Wow.
Several Caps made mention of the quiet crowd and how it impacted the game. That, combined with a Thrashers team that's already in vacation mode, made for one of the dullest games in a while.
"There were no emotions, no good crowd, you know?" said Ovechkin, whose assists were Nos. 199 and 200 of his career. "It was hard to play hockey here. It's a hard situation for Atlanta right now. It's only two games in the season and they go to vacation. We're in the playoffs. All of our minds are in the playoffs."
The attendance was announced as 16,207, but it was likely half that. And about 1,000 or so fans were wearing Caps jerseys.
The Caps were whistled for six. The Thrashers were whistled for one. I'm not saying the Caps' penalties weren't, in fact, penalties. Or that the Thrashers got away with anything. I just felt it needed to be pointed out.
That said, Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't happy with the single-file line his players formed outside of the penalty box.
"When you run into all these penalties -- you take three in the second and three in the third -- people get shortchanged that don't deserve get shortchanged," he said. "We've got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box."
Fedorov, meantime, had a penalty hat trick (hooking, boarding and holding).
Video Board Controversy
As you've probably seen by now (and if you haven't, stop reading and see the previous post) the Thrashers had some fun at Ovechkin's expense tonight. Ovechkin was fine with it. Boudreau was annoyed.
"I like the stuff they do, but I thought that was over the line," Boudreau said. "I know it was all in fun, but that was over the line. I wasn't a big fan of that. If they want to mock their own players, fine -- mock their own players like that."
Fleischmann's on a Roll
Fleischmann scored for the second straight game after going 15 contests without one. He also had an assist to record his second multi-point night in a row.
"I feel better, I feel the mojo right now," he said with a laugh.
Boudreau was pleased with the Fleischmann-Nicklas Backstrom-Viktor Kozlov line, which combined for two goals. He wasn't as pleased with the Ovechkin-Fedorov-Alexander Semin combo, which also struck twice but struggled with turnovers.
"One was good, one wasn't very good," Boudreau said. "I have to do some deep thinking tonight and tomorrow."
Fedorov added: "I don't think we had much going. I wasn't happy with my performance and I wasn't really feeling my linemates. It didn't feel like we played together at all."
I'll check in from Tampa in the morning.
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