ATLANTA (AP) -- Three straight games against first-place teams
brought out the best in the Washington Capitals.
Facing the team with the worst record in the NHL pushed them to
the other extreme.
"It seems like when we play teams like New York (Rangers) and
Carolina, it's a big game for us and we play hard all 60 minutes,"
Washington's Sergei Gonchar said. "When we play a team like
Atlanta, we let down for a couple of minutes, and they use it."
The Capitals, who outscored their previous three opponents 15-7,
blew leads of 2-0 and 3-2.
Domenicelli tied it at 3 with 2:24 left in the third period,
scoring off a rebound of Kovalchuk's shot.
"The last couple of games we've been on the other side of
giving up some chances," said Domenicelli, who scored his fourth
goal of the season. "Tonight we just kept pushing and pushing, and
we were able to get a break."
The Capitals opened the scoring on a power play midway through
the first period, with Khristich tapping the puck past goalie Milan
Hnilicka. Three minutes later, Zubrus made it 2-0, scoring after
Hnilicka stopped Peter Bondra's shot.
Then, Atlanta started its comeback.
"We have to be prepared to do the same things," Wilson said.
"If you play a team like the Rangers and dump the puck in and
forecheck and chip it off the board ... play solid hockey in your
own end. You score five or six against a team like the Rangers.
You've got to come in and play exactly the same way against someone
Bartecko scored late in the first period and Kovalchuk tied it
at 2 at 4:33 of the second. Kovalchuk has 12 goals this season,
second among NHL rookies behind Florida's Kristian Huselius.
Washington regained the lead on Khristich's power-play goal with
2:07 left in the second, after Atlanta's Per Svartvadet was
penalized two minutes for slashing.
Atlanta compiled 15 penalty minutes to Washington's 11.
"That's the best power play in the league," Atlanta coach Curt
Fraser said of the Capitals. "Discipline, that's what we wanted --
staying out of the box. We took a couple of bad penalties, and we
just can't get away with that."
Atlanta rookie Dany Heatley assisted on the Thrashers' last two
goals. Heatley and Kovalchuk passed Huselius for the rookie scoring
C Andrei Nikolishin assisted on all three Washington goals.
... Washington went 2-for-4 on its power-play opportunities, while
Atlanta was 0-for-4. ... Kolzig made 29 saves, and Hnilicka 34. ...
Thrashers general manager Don Waddell spoke with suspended
defenseman Petr Buzek for the first time in two weeks. Buzek, who
refused to play because of a contract dispute, described the
meeting as "positive," while Waddell said nothing had been
decided. ... The Thrashers activated C Andreas Karlsson from the
injured list and sent him to Chicago of the AHL.