Thrashers 8, Capitals 1
The public address announcer at Philips Arena repeated the words "Thrashers on the power play!" so often Saturday night it gave the impression Atlanta spent the entire game with more skaters than Washington.
The Capitals, in reality, faced 15 Atlanta power-play opportunities -- and Peter Bondra and his teammates took full advantage, scoring four times with the man advantage to blow out Washington for the second consecutive night, 8-1.
"We had our share of chances on the power play as well and we didn't take advantage," Capitals captain Jeff Halpern said, referring to Washington converting just one on its nine power plays. "We continued to give a lot of penalties up, but that's because we are spending a lot of time in our own end. That's something we have to crack down on."
Bondra continued to haunt his former team, registering two goals and an assist for the Thrashers (2-1-0). The swift-skating right wing had a goal and two assists in Friday's 7-3 victory over the Capitals (1-2-0) at MCI Center. Capitals rookie Alexander Ovechkin, meantime, extended his point streak to three games, recording an assist, but was otherwise kept in check.
Washington's defensive lineup received a makeover after surrendering 37 and 39 shots on goal the previous two games, respectively. Right wing Ben Clymer, who broke into the league as a defenseman and played about five shifts there Friday, spent the entire game on the blueline and was solid. Prospect Nolan Yonkman, meantime, was inserted into the lineup while Bryan Muir and Shaone Morrisonn were removed.
But the end result was the same, if not worse. The Thrashers outshot the Capitals, 42-20. And with each goal, goaltender Olie Kolzig took longer to pick himself up off the ice as the veteran appeared to grow more and more frustrated with what was going on in front of him.
"We're not trying to experiment," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We're trying to win hockey games."
That's 15 goals for the Thrashers in 48 hours against the rebuilding and outclassed Capitals. And they did it without their best player. But that's about to change.
Midway through the first period, the near-capacity crowd of 18,759 stood and applauded as Atlanta General Manager Don Waddell announced live on the screen above center ice that the Thrashers had re-signed restricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk.
The star left wing had threatened to play in Russia, but negotiations with the Thrashers gathered momentum in recent days and Kovalchuk agreed to a five-year, $32 million contract Saturday .
Bondra, for the second night in a row, opened the scoring, banging a rebound past Kolzig on the power play 6 minutes 50 seconds into the first period.
Atlanta's second power-play goal was scored by defenseman Greg de Vries, whose wrist shot from the just inside the blueline gave the Thrashers a 2-0 lead.
Washington trimmed its deficit to 2-1 less than a minute later on a goal by defenseman Jamie Heward, who pinched down low and redirected a precise backdoor cross-ice pass from Ovechkin past Atlanta goalie Mike Dunham. And that's the way it stayed until later in the second period when Bondra tallied his second goal of the night to extend Atlanta's lead to 3-1.
Atlanta's Serge Aubin put the game out of reach, 4-1, in the opening minutes of the third period. The Thrashers scored four more times in the period, two of them on the power play, to hand the Capitals another lopsided loss.
"There's no sense dwelling on it," Brendan Witt said. "We're only three games in. We have to learn from it and move forward. We spent too much time in the box, and the Thrashers capitalized on it. They have a good [power play] unit. Once you go down three, four up and you're still going in the penalty box, it becomes an epidemic and we end up embarrassing ourselves."