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After goalie collapses, Thrashers beat Caps 4-2

NHL.com @NHL

ATLANTA (AP) - After their goalie collapsed to the ice, the Atlanta Thrashers hardly felt like playing.

Once they knew Ondrej Pavelec was doing better, they took control against the mighty Washington Capitals.

Evander Kane scored two goals, Chris Mason did a stellar job filling in for Pavelec and the Thrashers gave Craig Ramsay a win in his coaching debut, beating the Capitals 4-2 Friday night.

"I couldn't be prouder of them," Ramsay said. "And it's definitely a great day for me personally."

Opening night didn't start out that way.

Just 2 1/2 minutes into the game, the 23-year-old Pavelec suddenly lost consciousness and fell over backward during a stoppage at the other end of the ice.

He was treated for about 10 minutes and his padding removed before he was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off, never moving. Pavelec was taken to a hospital, where preliminary tests were negative and he regained consciousness, even asking about the score of the game.

This was an outcome that surely made it a little easier to be kept overnight for observation.

Kane's first goal tied the game at 1 before the first intermission, but the Thrashers really turned it on after getting an encouraging report on Pavelec during the break.

They were urged on by Dustin Byfuglien, a star of Chicago's run to the Stanley Cup championship last season and one of four players Atlanta acquired from the salary-shedding Blackhawks over the summer, hoping that some of that winning attitude would rub off on a franchise that has never won a playoff game.

"It's always sad to see someone get carried off like that," Byfuglien said. "I just piped up and said let's go win this one for him."

Andrew Ladd, another of the players acquired from Chicago, was stymied on a chance while all alone in front of the net. But Johnny Oduya kept the puck in at the blue line, fired another shot toward the goal and Ladd deflected it past Michal Neuvirth at 15:43 of the second to put the Thrashers ahead for good.

Before the period was done, the 19-year-old Kane scored again on a penalty shot to make it 3-1. Mike Green grabbed the puck in the crease during a wild scramble in front of the net, sliding it clear with his left hand. But the officials caught him, and Kane beat Neuvirth.

Brooks Laich scored first for Washington, just 53 seconds after play resumed with Mason taking over for Pavelec. But Mason bounced back to make 29 saves.

"I thought our players responded extremely well and I thought our goalie went in and was just wonderful," Ramsay said. "It showed the character of a good group of guys."

The Thrashers shut down Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-scoring Capitals for nearly 45 minutes. Ovechkin finally broke through, feeding a pass to Mike Knuble for a goal that made it 3-2 with 11:44 remaining.

But the Thrashers clinched it with 5 minutes remaining. Another newcomer, Fredrik Modin, beat Neuvirth to restore the Thrashers' two-goal margin.

It was a rough start for the Capitals, who are still smarting from an opening-round playoff loss to Montreal that ruined their brilliant regular season.

"We did not play our game at all," Ovechkin said.

The Thrashers snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Capitals dating to April 2009. Washington won all six meetings between the division rivals last season.

"They just outworked us," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You get rewarded when you outwork the other team."

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