Capitals Answer the Call-Out

Mike Green, right, is congratulated by center Viktor Kozlov after scoring his second goal against the Thrashers at Verizon Center.
Mike Green, right, is congratulated by center Viktor Kozlov after scoring his second goal against the Thrashers at Verizon Center. (Toni L. Sandys - The Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 9, 2007

One night after being called out by their coach for a lack of emotion, desire and focus, no one knew how the Washington Capitals would respond to the public tongue-lashing.

The answer, though, was obvious after only 20 minutes last night at Verizon Center, where the Capitals started fast and cruised to a 6-3 victory over Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers.

Defenseman Mike Green scored twice, Nicklas Backstrom notched a goal and two assists and Olie Kolzig made 23 saves for Washington.

"That's the way he is. He keeps everyone accountable, myself included," Kolzig said of interim coach Bruce Boudreau and his pointed comments following Friday's 3-2 loss in New Jersey. "Everybody is man enough in this room to step it up and not cower in the corner. The result of the game shows you how we responded."

The six goals were the second most scored by the Capitals this season (they beat the Maple Leafs, 7-1, in Toronto on Oct. 29) as they improved to 4-3-1 since Boudreau took over behind the bench on Nov. 22. They had lost nine of 10 before the coaching change.

"We talked about passion today," said Boudreau, who shook up the lines and scratched defenseman Brian Pothier. "And I thought we played with passion today."

Although the Capitals appear to be slowly turning things around, the team remains at the bottom of the NHL standings with 22 points in 29 games and is in desperate need of a lengthy winning streak.

They're hoping their rout of the Thrashers might be the start. It opened a four-game homestand that will continue tomorrow against the Devils.

"We've put ourselves in this position," Boudreau said. "We have to win if we want to get back in the pack. That opportunity is there for us this week. Whether we take advantage of it or not is another story."

Todd White scored two of Atlanta's goals; Kovalchuk, the NHL's leading goal scorer with 23, finished with five shots and two assists.

The Capitals' impressive victory came 24 hours after Boudreau told reporters: "Hockey is simple. It comes down to the will and the want. . . . They wanted it more."

Tough words, though, weren't needed after one of the best victories of the season over one of the Capitals' least-favorite opponents. And they pulled it off without injured forwards Michael Nylander (undisclosed), Chris Clark (strained groin muscle) and Boyd Gordon (broken right hand.)

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