ATLANTA | A big first period and another strong performance from rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov helped the Caps inch closer to securing the No. 2 position in the Eastern Conference.
Two days after overcoming a slow start to beat Atlanta at Verizon Center, the Caps scored three first-period goals and held on for a 4-2 victory Tuesday night against the Thrashers at Philips Arena.
Coupled with New Jersey´s loss to Toronto, the Caps now lead the Devils by four points for the No. 2 seed. If Washington gains one more point (or New Jersey fails to gain one) it will clinch the spot and home-ice advantage through the second round of the playoffs.
Tomas Fleischmann was credited with his second goal in as many games, and the Caps went ahead 1-0 at 8:20 of the first. Fleischmann carried the puck toward the left post, waited out a defenseman and threw it into the crease behind goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Thrashers center Marty Reasoner tried to knock the puck away from danger but put it in his own net instead.
Rich Peverley tied the game 68 seconds later. Atlanta´s Ron Hainsey took the puck from Milan Jurcina in the high slot and fed it to Peverley, who deked to his backhand for his 15th of the season — and 13th since joining the Thrashers as a midseason waiver pickup.
Viktor Kozlov and Nicklas Backstrom answered with a pretty passing exhibition and goal 28 seconds later. Backstrom fed Kozlov, who flipped a backhand shot past Pavelec for his 13th of the year. It was Kozlov´s second goal since Jan. 31, a span of 20 games.
Alexander Semin made it 3-1 Caps with a great individual effort. He tipped a loose puck away from defenseman Tobias Enstrom to spring himself on a breakaway and then scored despite being hooked by Zach Bogosian at 15:56 of the opening period.
Reasoner atoned for his flub with the lone goal of the second period. He tipped a point shot from Tobias Enstrom past Varlamov 65 seconds in. Other than a couple of long-distance shots from Alex Ovechkin, the Caps had few scoring chances in the period and only five shots on net.
Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov hooked up for the Caps' fourth goal midway through the third. Fedorov won the faceoff to Ovechkin, who sent a shot to the net. Fedorov put the rebound past Pavelec, and replays showed that it went over the goal line, but Bogosian knocked it back into play — only to have Ovechkin tap it back in the net. It was Fedorov´s 11th goal of the season and third in as many games.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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