The Washington Times - October 22, 2009, 10:57PM

Well, the Caps have won three straight and now have a three-point lead in the Southeast Division. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to the story after a 5-4 victory in Atlanta tonight.

When the score was 5-2 the thought “when was the last time a team played this poorly and won by three goals?” might have crossed my mind, but that didn’t matter in the end because the final score was a closer reflection of how the night went.


A couple of non-Caps related problems first:

* Bruce Boudreau said the ice was terrible — maybe the worst he’s ever seen.

* Mike Knuble wasn’t happy with the consistency of the officiating.

Both concerns were legitimate, especially the officiating in the third period. A couple of iffy calls and a couple of no-calls bogged things down, and nearly helped the Thrashers rally to tie the game.

That said …

* The Caps still took too many penalties. They took four in the third (Knuble’s was iffy) and three in the final three minutes. Can’t really say I saw a great replay on the Ovechkin trip with 30 seconds left, but a couple of people who were watching TV have said it was a slew foot.

* The power play was awful, going 0-for-7 and giving up a shorthanded goal. Boudreau said it might have been the worst PP performance since he took over.

* Semyon Varlamov was pretty shaky in net. He gave up four goals on 26 shots, but outside of a breakaway in the first minute, he didn’t really make the usual number of great saves that would make a couple of soft goals acceptable.

* Boudreau didn’t the think the first line was very good. Hard to argue with that. This was probably Nicklas Backstrom’s worst game of the year, and Ovechkin only seemed to get engaged once Pavel Kubina took a couple of shots at him.

Despite all of that, there were some positives from this, including a big one:

* SECONDARY SCORING — Five goals from guys who weren’t among the top six forwards before this game. Four goals from guys who hadn’t scored this season. This after the Caps only had three goals (two from Matt Bradley, one from Mike Green) from non top-six guys in their first eight games.

— Eric Fehr was promoted to replace Alexander Semin on the second line and scored on his first shift.

— Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux hooked up for a goal after being recalled to replace Semin and Boyd Gordon.

— Chris Clark had a nice hustle goal that ended up being the game-winner and also helped create the Giroux goal by driving the net and opening up a passing lane for Aucoin.

— Then there is Jeff Schultz. His first multi-point game since January 2008 and his first three-point night since juniors. He hit Fehr with a perfect pass and Matt Bradley put home a rebound of his shot.

His goal was the only fluky point of his night. Schultz said he was just trying to send the puck up the ice and get to the bench. Both he and Knuble were pretty sure it hit Knuble’s stick on the way right around center ice, but Schultz isn’t in any hurry to be giving goals away. Knuble said he barely grazed it, but it did take a pair of funny bounces.

Not to be forgotten, Schultz also blocked Ilya Kovalchuk’s attempt in the waning seconds.

The Caps will practice on Long Island tomorrow to prep for the Islanders on Saturday night. As for a quote to leave everyone with that probably sums up the night …

“I never once felt comfortable in that entire game,” Boudreau said. “I just saw pucks bouncing and things going energy wise — for both teams it wasn’t what it should be, but we’ll take the win.”