Thrashers 7, Capitals 3
Peter Bondra was welcomed by a smattering of applause when his name was announced before last night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers. By the second period, however, he had worn that welcome thin.
Bondra torched his former team, scoring a goal and setting up two others in the Thrashers' 7-3 victory in front of an announced crowd of 13,021.
"I treated this game like another division rival," Bondra said afterward. "I have a lot of memories here. But I'm going to put all of my energy to moving forward."
Atlanta's first four scores came on the power play -- one short of equaling the most ever allowed by Washington (1-1-0). But more disturbing than the Capitals' woeful penalty killing was that, for the second time in two games, the young and inexperienced corps of defensemen left goaltender Olie Kolzig to fend for himself far too often.
"We put ourselves in a hole," said right wing Brian Willsie, who scored Washington's second goal. "Olie was standing on his head back there, but he can only do so much. We need to get more pucks on net; we were pretty badly out-shot tonight."
The Thrashers (1-1-0) outshot Washington 39-22; in the Capitals' 3-2 victory over Columbus on Wednesday they were outshot 37-19.
Atlanta managed its gaudy shot total without the help of star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who is embroiled in a contract dispute. But according to reports, the former 40- goal scorer might be in a Thrashers' uniform soon -- but not in time face the Capitals at Philips Arena tonight.
Bondra was all the Thrashers needed last night. He gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead, scoring on the power play after stuffing his own rebound underneath Kolzig early in the first period. A few fans booed.
"It wasn't really a boo," said Bondra, a fan favorite during his 131/2 seasons in Washington. "Maybe, if it was a full house it would have been different."
The Capitals' career leader in goals and points, Bondra was dealt to Ottawa in February 2004, then signed with Atlanta as a free agent a month ago after spurning the Capitals' offer to return. His first appearance at MCI Center wearing an opponent's jersey came as a Senator.
Mathieu Biron was in the penalty box for Bondra's goal, but the 6-foot-6 defenseman made up for his misdeed moments later. He let loose a slap shot from the point that slipped between Thrashers goalie Mike Dunham and the near post to tie the game at 1.
Atlanta defenseman Jaroslav Modry restored the Thrashers' lead with a power-play goal late in the first period. Bobby Holik and Marc Savard each scored on the man advantage in the second period to stretch the Thrashers' edge to 4-1. Bondra set up both scores.
Willsie scored on the power play at 13 minutes 21 seconds of the second period to make the score 4-2. But Atlanta's seldom used wing, Eric Boulton, put the game out of reach midway through the third, beating Kolzig over the glove to put the Thrashers ahead 5-2.
Andrew Cassels had Washington's third goal (from Jeff Halpern and Alexander Ovechkin). Atlanta's Vyacheslav Kozlov and Marian Hossa each tallied empty-net goals in the waning moments.
"I'm more concerned with losing. Who scores is irrelevant to us," said Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon, when asked about Bondra's performance. "We wanted to play Peter real hard because we know he can impact a hockey game. But trying and doing are two different things."
Capitals Notes: Capitals backup goaltender Brent Johnson was on the bench last night. The 28-year-old was claimed off waivers from Vancouver on Tuesday and will replace Maxime Ouellet, who was demoted after struggling during the preseason. Ouellet cleared waivers yesterday and was assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League. Ouellet's roster spot was taken by Chris Clark. The energetic right wing came off injured reserve and saw his first action since suffering a rib injury during the preseason game against Buffalo on Sept. 21. Capitals right wing Ben Clymer, a converted defenseman, played about five shifts on the blueline in the second and third periods.