(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers were just one of the teams the Washington Capitals dominated last year on the way to their third straight Southeast Division title.
However, a season-opening win over the Caps showed the Thrashers won't be pushovers this season and the club will look to deal Washington a third straight loss in tonight's meeting at the Verizon Center.
Washington had bested Atlanta in eight straight meetings, including outscoring the Thrashers by a 29-13 margin in the six matchups last year, before a 4-2 setback in Atlanta on Oct. 8. The Capitals have still won seven in a row at home in this series however, with the Thrashers last win at the Verizon Center coming on Feb. 2, 2008.
Atlanta's season-opening win versus Washington featured a pair of goals from Evander Kane, but is best remembered because of Thrashers netminder Ondrej Pavelec collapsing in front of his own net just 2:25 into the game.
Pavelec was taken to a local hospital and it was later determined he suffered from a fainting spell. His lose of consciousness did cause him to hit his head on the ice, however, and he suffered a concussion. The netminder has begun practicing with the club, but his return date is unknown.
Chris Mason replaced Pavelec in that game and has logged the majority of the time since. He is 3-4-0 with a 3.47 goals-against average on the season, but allowed three goals on 16 shots in last night's 5-2 loss to the Lightning and was pulled after the first period. Peter Mannino made his Atlanta debut and just fourth career appearance, stopping 15-of-16 shots faced.
Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay could go right back to Mason, who stopped 29 shots versus the Capitals in his relief effort to improve to 4-0-0 with a 1.89 GAA in five all-time meetings with the club, including three starts.
Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist and Jim Slater scored his first goal of the season versus the Lightning for the Thrashers, who have dropped their past two games.
"I thought we were much better tonight that we have been in the past," said Ramsay. "I thought we did a good job on the 5-on-3, but they took that shot that squeaked in and that kind of hurt us."
While Zach Bogosian remained out with a shoulder injury, Tobias Enstrom played in his 253rd straight game to set an Atlanta franchise record.
The Thrashers will try to extend the Capitals current slide as they were swept in a home-and-home set by the Bruins to snap a four-game winning streak. After a 3-1 setback on Tuesday at home, Washington was dealt a 4-1 loss in Boston on Thursday.
Jason Chimera scored the lone goal and Semyon Varlamov, in his first start of the year, allowed all four goals on 34 shots. Washington also allowed a power- play goal for the first time since seven games and it came with under 30 seconds left in the first period.
"I don't think that's the real turning point in the hockey game," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said of the first goal. "That wasn't something that we dwelled on. Once they scored it, we moved by it ... I think it was the second goal that was maybe more of a back-breaker for us."
Defenseman Mike Green missed his third straight game due to a stinger, while Boyd Gordon was out with an undisclosed injury. Both players are questionable for tonight.