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Pavelec Puts on a Show

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Rookie Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec helped the Atlanta Thrasher climb right back to within a stone's throw of the Eastern Conference playoff race. In just his fourth profession start (2 in the AHL and 2 in the NHL) he was nothing short of sensational in the 1st period when the Thrashers were flat in the opening period after a long road trip (a very common occurrence in the NHL).

The only goal Pavelec allowed came after he made one save and Washington swung the puck quickly around behind the net and then back out to the crease to a wide open Nylander (I'm not sure what Havelid was looking at on that one).

In his previous start against Tampa Bay Pavelec was very strong despite allowing four goals. The blame for three of those four goals should probably go to Thrasher skaters 1) Exelby (falling down in the crease), 2) Perrin (tipping a low shot into the top of the net) and 3) the penalty killers (for leaving the back door wide open to try and double team someone).

What Pavelec has done so far is just remarkable. He has basically made the jump from junior hockey straight to the NHL and looked pretty solid. Goalies often take longer to develop and they frequently spend a few years in the minors before making the big leagues. Now Pavelec has a some things he needs to work (like loosing sight of the puck after a save) but right now he looks like he belongs in the NHL. (This could give the Thrashers a lot more leverage during contract talks with Lehtonen this summer.)

At least three times in the 1st period I thought that the Capitals were all but certain to score. One player Pavelec robbed in the first period was Chris Bourque who was playing in his first ever NHL game. Prior to the start of the game your blogger stepped into the elevator to go up to my seats and was joined by Ray Bourque and his wife. I quickly asked him to sign my game program since it was his son's first NHL game and he did so. That is the second great defenseman I've met in the last 30 days as I recently talked to Mark Howe on the recent road trip.

One negative is that the Thrashers continued a pattern seen on the recent road trip in which they failed to get shots on net in some of their best scoring chances. One play that stands out took place in the third period with the game tied and the puck was sent across the crease and Todd White just couldn't redirect it into the net. White went on to redeem himself with a terrific goal in OT to get the win (Slava Kozlov made a thread the needle pass to put it on his stick).

Another big storyline from this game was the injury to Ilya Kovalchuk. The Thrashers were on the power play and he let loose one of his trademark slap shots and then stumbled to the ice and slid into the corner. He was obviously in some pain (although he was not writhing around) and left the ice under his own power. In the stands we speculated hamstring, knee and shoulder which all turned out to be wrong as he had back spasms.

If you didn't attend the game you missed Kovalchuk's highlight reel goal which gave the Thrashers an early lead. My friend Adam said he thought it was his best goal of the whole year so far. He came across the blueline cut wide and the defensemen couldn't stay with him so he cut back inside and just snapped off a terrific wrist shot. When the play started I didn't think he would score but Kovalchuk turned a so-so opportunity into a goal. Another clip for his MVP videotape.

Since the game wasn't televised in either market I kept track of good scoring chances. What is a scoring chance you may ask? Well basically my definition was this: "While watching did I say ooooh?" if the answer is "yes" it was a scoring chance for the team that got me excited (or worried).
  • 1st period: 9-5 Capitals
  • 2nd period: 6-2 Thrashers
  • 3rd period: 6-4 Thrashers
  • Overtime period: 3-0 Thrashers

The game had some real swings of emotion as the Capitals dominated the 1st period and start of the 3rd period and the Thrashers controlled the 2nd period and end of the 3rd and the overtime session.

One thing that made me laugh was a contest where they gave a fan some names and he had to say if that person was either a former Capitals coach or a US Senator. I was perfect on that one, too bad that isn't a real game show I could make a fortune. Also amusing was seeing the skit where a Capitals player and Matt the Penalty Box Timekeeper sang the duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Anymore" during an officials timeout.

A win versus Florida puts the Thrasher right smack in the mid section of the Eastern Conference standing. Let's keep the momentum going guys!