Thrashers lose to NHL-best Capitals

Then again, who can?

Ovechkin had a goal and an assist to lead the Capitals to a 5-2 victory over the Thrashers on Friday at the Verizon Center. It was the Capitals’ team-record 13th consecutive victory. It came in front of 18,277 who braved a blizzard that blanketed the capital with over a foot of snow.

“They are a pretty confident group right now,” Thrashers forward Rich Peverley said.

The Thrashers played inspired hockey one day after trading franchise player Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. The Thrashers outshot the Capitals 45-32, including 22-9 in the second period.

However, the Capitals scored five consecutive goals in the second and third periods for the win. Nicklas Backstrom’s second-period goal was the go-ahead goal. Backstrom took a pass from Ovechkin in front of the net and beat Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with a quick shot. It was Backstrom’s 25th goal of the season and gave the Capitals the lead for good 4:31 into the period.

“I thought we outplayed them in the second. They just had the key goal to make it 2-1,” Peverley said. “You give these guys an inch, they take a mile with how skilled they are.”

Alexander Semin and Jason Chimera scored 1:08 apart in the third period to clinch the win. Mike Green added an empty-net goal.

“You can’t turn the puck over on these guys,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “They are too good. I thought we played a really good game, just not good enough. We turned the puck over at the blue line. We turned it over deep in our zone.”

Ovechkin, the two-time MVP leads the league in goals (39), points (82) and plus-minus rating (plus-38).

The Capitals (40-12-6, 86 points) have the best record in the NHL and won their 10th consecutive home game and 16 of the past 17. During the team’s 13-game winning streak, they have outscored the opposition 61-29.

The Thrashers (24-24-8, 56 points) lost ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race with their third consecutive loss. They entered the game tied for 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, three points out of the eighth spot.

Tobias Enstrom opened the scoring early for the Thrashers. Slava Kozlov brought the puck into the offensive zone and waited as Peverley skated in down the left side. When Kozlov couldn’t get him the puck, he passed to Enstrom, who jumped into the play. Enstrom got the puck to Peverley and continued on net. Peverley’s shot was stopped by Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth, and Enstrom knocked in the rebound 2:46 into the game for his fifth goal of the season.

The Capitals answered midway through the first period with a goal by guess who? Ovechkin. The NHL’s leading scorer blasted a shot into the back of the net on a power play at the 13:41 mark. The power-play goal was the first allowed by the Thrashers in five games.

It was Ovechkin’s fifth goal in the past four games.

Peverley scored a short-handed goal with 6:45 remaining in the game. It was his team-leading 18th goal of the season.

“It doesn’t matter that they are on a roll,” Pavelec said. “They’ve had a pretty good time for the last three years. … They win 13 games in a row, and it’s hard to stop.”

The newest Thrashers obtained in the Kovalchuk trade, Johnny Oduya and Niclas Bergfors, made their debuts. Oduya was paired on defense with Ron Hainsey. Bergfors took Kovalchuk’s spot at left wing on the line with Nik Antropov and Bryan Little.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.