In OT, Capitals Continue Tailspin

Brooks Laich, Ondrej Pavelec
Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stops a shot by Capitals forward Brooks Laich during the second period. (John Amis - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ATLANTA, Nov. 6 -- The Washington Capitals put forth a solid effort and earned a point in the standings Tuesday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.

But the players found little solace in rallying from a one-goal deficit and getting to overtime.

They desperately needed a victory. But instead, Brent Johnson and his teammates found themselves standing in a silent visitors' locker room at Philips Arena, explaining another loss in which their anemic offense had let them down, this one a 2-1 defeat in overtime.

"It's adverse times right now in here," said Johnson, who made 29 saves. "Some older guys have dealt with this. I for one have. It's going to take every single one of us to get out of this."

Todd White's goal 1 minute 34 seconds into the extra session dropped the Capitals into a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points, one behind a resurgent Atlanta team that had lost its first six games.

"I never felt like this was game was getting out of hand," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We just didn't get rewarded."

After falling behind on a second-period goal by Thrashers star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, the Capitals pulled even in the third on Michael Nylander's power-play tally.

Nylander snapped a wrap-around pass from Viktor Kozlov shot past sprawled goalie Ondrej Pavelec, a 20-year-old rookie making his second start.

Nylander also was on the ice when the winning play developed in overtime. The veteran center went for a line change before the puck had been cleared from the zone. It eventually wound up on the stick of Slava Kozlov, who saucered a pass to White, who raced down low and flipped it over Johnson.

"We played a good game, we were right there, but we have to score more than we scored today," Nylander said.

One day after absorbing a 5-0 dismantling in Raleigh, N.C., the Capitals looked like a different team.

Hanlon made several wholesale changes to his forward lines and defensive pairings in the hopes of squeezing some more offense from his team.

The most notable switch involved putting Alex Ovechkin, Nylander and Chris Bourque on the top line.

Bourque, the son of Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, made his NHL debut with his father in attendance. He received 11:58 of ice time, recorded two shots and was assessed a hooking penalty.

Rookie Nicklas Backstrom, meantime, centered the second line between Tomas Fleischmann and Kozlov, who recorded a team-high shots on goal.

On the blue line, defenseman Steve Eminger was removed from injured reserve and made his season debut. After missing the first 14 games with an ankle injury, Eminger was paired with Shaone Morrisonn, whose usual partner, Milan Jurcina, was scratched after struggling in Monday's 5-0 loss at Carolina.

The Capitals' injury situation improved slightly. Defenseman Tom Poti, after missing six games with a strained groin muscle, returned to the lineup. He skated a team-high 25:12.

But the other injured Capitals -- captain Chris Clark and winger Alex Semin -- remained sidelined. Clark, out the past five games with a lacerated ear and dizziness, missed his fifth game while Semin missed his 10th game with a sprained ankle.

The lineup changes, though, didn't change the Capitals' offensive fortunes. They outshot the Thrashers 16-6 in the first period but had nothing to show for their effort thanks to Pavelec.

"We had chances to score goals, but we didn't," Ovechkin said. "Their goalie make great saves, but most of time we were missing the net."

Kovalchuk broke the scoreless tie at 6:20 with a scintillating move around Eminger deep in the Capitals' zone. The flashy winger, who had back-to-back hat tricks in his previous two games, crossed up Eminger with a splendid head fake, then roofed the shot over Johnson's glove to make it 1-0.

In the third period, both goaltenders were spectacular, ensuring the game reached overtime.

"We got a point, but it's still a loss," Poti said. "It doesn't stop the streak for us."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company