Alexander Ovechkin's bid to reach 60 goals stalled in his last game. Given his history against the Atlanta Thrashers, the league's scoring leader has a good chance of finally reaching that plateau.
Facing the team he's enjoyed the most success against in his three NHL seasons, Ovechkin again will try to become the NHL's first 60-goal scorer in 12 years as the Capitals (36-31-8) continue their season-high six-game road trip on Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
|Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk are the league's two 50-goal scorers to date. They meet tonight in Atlanta as part of the Caps' season-high six-game road trip.
Ovechkin has 58 goals and 102 points, but failed to add to those totals in Washington's 5-0 loss to Chicago on Wednesday. Playing less than 18 minutes, he took only two shots on goal and also was called for roughing in the second period.
Washington has been blanked six times, five coming on the road. The only shutout loss was home was 2-0 to the Thrashers on Feb. 2.
Olaf Kolzig yielded four first-period goals against the Blackhawks and finished with 37 saves.
"We had a gear missing and they played well," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I just think we had a real stinker. We stunk in the first period. I can't say it any more clearly: We were all horrible together."
Washington's lackluster effort came one night after Ovechkin had a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win over Nashville to open the trip. He needs two more goals to become the first with 60 in a season since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) in 1995-96.
With his 60th, Ovechkin also will become the second player in Washington's 34-year history to reach that mark, joining Dennis Maruk who notched a franchise-record 60 in 1981-82.
Ovechkin has 18 goals and 18 assists in just 23 career games versus Atlanta. In helping Washington to a 3-2-2 record in this season's series, the top overall draft pick in 2004 has four goals and four assists, including consecutive multipoint games.
But the Caps are running out of time as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2003. They start play in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind eighth-place Philadelphia.
After seeing Kolzig struggle, Boudreau likely will go with Cristobal Huet in goal. Huet is 4-2-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average since being acquired from Montreal at last month's trading deadline, and 4-0-1 with a 1.55 GAA in his last five starts versus the Thrashers.
Atlanta (31-37-8), which won the Southeast Division last season, is 14th in the East with only six games to play. Efforts like the one Wednesday against Carolina highlight how the Thrashers have struggled this season.
Johan Hedberg allowed three first-period goals in a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes. Bryan Little, Steve McCarthy and Slava Kozlov scored for Atlanta, which has managed only seven goals during a four-game skid that started on March 14 with a 4-1 loss at Washington.
"We battled and showed a lot of character trying to come back," said Hedberg, who made 28 saves. "We have to play for our fans and our pride."
Ilya Kovalchuk, second in the NHL behind Ovechkin with 50 goals, has three and five assists in six games versus Washington this season - both team highs. Kovalchuk and Ovechkin also are tied for the league lead with 22 third-period goals.
Todd White has four goals against the Caps this season, including two game-winners at Philips Arena.