- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

For reasons nobody can quite pinpoint, most of the Washington Capitals last night had a letdown instead of a carry-over from the high that came with Wednesday night’s season-opening triumph over Columbus.

In fact, the letdown was so thorough that it easily could have been classified as a midseason burnout if it hadn’t happened in the second game of the season.

The shorthanded Atlanta Thrashers (star goalie and star wing not present) scored on half of their eight power play chances, with former Caps idol Peter Bondra collecting a goal and two assists, and easily rolled past the Caps 7-3 — and it might have been far worse had goalie Olie Kolzig not been in midseason form.

The Caps appeared disorganized and confused at times, and Atlanta was quick to take advantage. The announced crowd of 13,021 occasionally booed the home team’s performance and even the cheers for Bondra’s goal were sprinkled with boos, which the wing made note of after the game.

“From the very beginning we were flat,” center Dainius Zubrus said. “I honestly think after the first period it should have been 5-1 or something. Olie kept us in the game but we never responded. I don’t know the reason, I don’t know why.”

Coach Glen Hanlon experimented with lines occasionally, even using right wing Ben Clymer on defense to try to get some spirit into the lineup. But nothing seemed to bring the team even near the level it was at after beating Columbus 3-2 in its opener.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the season,” Kolzig said, referring to the team’s non-stop march to the penalty box, giving the Thrashers chance after chance. “In order to give ourselves a chance every night, the one thing we can control is the penalties. We took way too many penalties [nine for 21 minutes], they’ve got enough skill up front — you saw what they did on the power play. In order for us to give ourselves a chance, we have to stay out of the box.”

Yet until left wing Eric Boulton was allowed to come down the left side unopposed near the midway point of the third period and scored easily, the Caps still were in the game. But his goal made it 5-2 and that was too much to overcome.

Washington got goals from Mathieu Biron, Brian Willsie and Andrew Cassels, the first of the season for each. Jeff Halpern contributed his fourth assist of the brief season and rookie Alexander Ovechkin got an assist on Cassels’ score to give him three points in two games.

The two teams meet tonight in Atlanta and then will play each other six more times. The Thrashers are playing without injured goalie Kari Lehtonen (groin) and holdout left wing Ilya Kovalchuk.

Notes — Right wing Chris Clark (ribs) came off injured reserve yesterday and played last night for the first time since Sept. 21. Scratched were forwards Matt Pettinger and Stephen Peat and defenseman Nolan Yonkman. … Backup goalie Maxime Ouellet, who has struggled since the middle of last season in the minors and had a horrible training camp, cleared waivers yesterday and has been assigned to Hershey, Pa., in an attempt to get his game together. That means the Bears have three goalies on the team, bad news for Kirk Daubenspeck, who might have to move down to South Carolina. … Forward Miroslav Zalesak, who came close to making the Caps roster out of camp, has signed with Sodertalje in the Swedish Elite League. Zalesak lost his roster spot when two late additions showed up. Caps farmhand Rastislav Stana played goal for Sodertalje last season.

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