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Caps, Thrashers set for Round 3 in D.C.

by Brian Compton
THRASHERS (7-7-3) at CAPITALS (12-4-1)


Last 10: Atlanta 4-3-3; Washington 8-1-1.

Season Series: This is the third of six meetings between the teams. Atlanta is 1-0-1 against the Caps thus far. Washington won the most recent meeting in a 4-3 overtime victory on Oct. 23.

Big Story: The season's only just over a month old, but the Capitals have already built a seven-point lead in the Southeast Division thanks to a stretch that's seen them win 8 of their last 10 games. Washington has earned at least a point in every game this month, including Saturday night's 3-2 overtime loss at Buffalo.

"I thought it was three different periods, three different games," Boudreau said of Saturday's game. "I thought the first period, we were pretty good. I thought if Alex (Ovechkin) had scored on the breakaway (in the first period), it might have been a different game. I thought the second period was our worst period of hockey that maybe I've seen since I've been here.

"In the third period, I thought we came out with a different attitude and we played a lot better. In the overtime, (Thomas) Vanek made a great play."

Team Scope:

Thrashers: Atlanta was unable to secure its second straight win on Saturday night, as it dropped a 4-2 decision against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Philips Arena. Brent Sopel and Niclas Bergfors scored for the Thrashers, who fell back to the .500 mark with the loss.

"Those guys don't need many chances to score goals," Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec said of the Pens. "(Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby) may be the best players in the NHL. It's tough to play them for 60 minutes, but if we want to make the playoffs we need to shut down those guys."

Capitals: Boudreau wasn't the only one who was disappointed with the way the club played in the second period on Saturday night, when Washington was outshot 11-4 by the Sabres. Vanek and Steve Montador turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead en route to the overtime win for Buffalo.

"We just stopped working," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "The third period was a little bit of a wakeup call for us after the second period. Both teams could've won, and I guess it was Buffalo's time. At least we're happy about one point."

Who's Hot: Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd -- both acquired by Atlanta from Chicago last summer -- are tied for the team lead in Atlanta with 16 points. … Ovechkin failed to register a point Saturday night, ending an eight-game streak in which he had 5 goals and 10 assists. Alexander Semin has at least a point in seven straight games.

Injury Report: Thrashers centers Bryan Little (concussion) and Patrice Cormier (broken foot) are out. … Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov (groin) is day-to-day. Tom Poti (undisclosed) is questionable.

Stat Pack: With Saturday's loss, Pavelec fell to 0-5 lifetime against the Penguins. Pittsburgh is 30-9-2 all-time against Atlanta. … Saturday's loss to Buffalo was Washington's first since Oct. 28.

Puck Drop: "It was disappointing. I'm really upset about how we played and how we came out. You talk about coming from behind all year and then you finally get the lead, you're supposed to put the pedal down then and just keep going after them and break their well. But we sat back and took penalties and played really bad." -- Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after Saturday's OT loss at Buffalo
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