The Washington Capitals 2010-11 season opener started with a bizarre turn of events, as the Atlanta Thrashers watched their young goaltender Ondrej Pavelec collapse to the ice. There was a 20 minute delay as medical staff worked to place Pavleec on a stretcher and cart him off the playing surface, as both teams looked on with concern. Reports out of Atlanta are that Pavelec regained consciousness and, in stable condition, was kept for observation overnight.
Following the delay, the Thrash easily could have let the game get away from them. Unfortunately, it was the Capitals whose play seemed distracted by the events earlier in the evening. Washington went up early on a tally from Brooks Laich, set up by a nice feed from Tomas Fleischmann, but the score was quickly evened when Evander Kane capitalized on a weak outlet pass. Newly acquired Andrew Ladd deflected a shot from Johnny Oduya to put Atlanta up 2-1 late in a second, and Kane was able to add his second goal of the evening on a penalty shot following Mike Green being flagged for covering the puck in the crease with his hand. The Capitals were not able to convert on two man-advantage opportunities in the third, but Mike Knuble was able to bring his team within one when ATL’s defenders moved to cover Alex Ovechkin. Fredrik Modin was able to close out the night for the Thrashers, picking up the puck when Nik Antropov out-dueled Dave Steckel in the face off circle.
– Michal Neuvirth appeared to be one of the few Capitals who didn’t mail in a performance last night. En route to stopping 27 shots, we were able to witness the composure he had become known for in Hershey. Mikey was the deciding factor that prevented this game from being a blowout.
– Aside from a late defensive miscue that lead to Atlanta’s fourth goal, Matt Hendricks turned out a strong performance. In 14 shifts and just shy of 11 minutes ice time, he added a hit, a takeaway, a shot on goal and two blocked shots as he seemed to be all over the ice. Another bonus? You can tell by the look on his face, he really enjoyed playing the game.
– Good on John Erskine for sticking up for Neuvi. Although he was on the receiving end of a Roughing penalty, it was a small price for not letting the Thrash take cheap shots on the young goaltender.
– Flash’s pass to set up Mr. AAA? A thing of beauty. That’s what a second-line Center should do.
– As Tomas giveth, he taketh away. His turnover in the defensive zone that lead to Evander Kane’s first tally was u-g-l-y. That’s not what a second-line Center should do.
– We all know Mike Green likes to shoot the puck, but when he has more than double the amount of shots of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Tomas Fleishmann, or Eric Fehr (who had 0) – the offense needs a pep talk. Maybe they left their “shooting” sticks in DC.
– Hello power play? Where are you?
– The Caps as a whole looked lost the entire night – missing assignments, sloppy passing, turnovers, not being able to clear the puck, and a partridge in a pear tree. You can expect a team to still be working out the kinks during a first game, but yeesh.
– Thrashers’ young goalie Ondrej Pavelec losing consciousness just over two minutes into the game. While there is always the chance of injury in any sport, it was downright scary to see Pavelec fall over backwards away from the play and witness the ensuing rush of medical staff to cart him off the ice. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Ondrej.