- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) - Kari Lehtonen made several sprawling saves against the Washington Capitals.

After holding the Capitals scoreless for nearly 59 minutes, the Atlanta goaltender wasn’t going to complain about coming up short in his bid for a third shutout in five games.

“I was just happy to play well and help the team get a victory,” said Lehtonen, who made a career-high 49 saves in the Thrashers’ 5-1 victory. “I wasn’t mad as well. It was still a great game.”

Slava Kozlov and Tobias Enstrom each had a goal and an assist to help the Thrashers win a team-record sixth straight.

It’s rare when Washington, second in the Eastern Conference and third overall with 229 goals, struggles to score. But the Capitals had their three-game winning streak snapped.

“Kari Lehtonen was great all game,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We were really bad in the first two periods. We had two hits and were 29 percent on the faceoffs. We were giving the puck away. We didn’t force at all on the penalty kill.”

Lehtonen had his bid at a fourth shutout this season, and 15th overall, disappear when Eric Fehr swept in his 11th goal with 1:15 remaining.

“It didn’t matter much,” Lehtonen said. “I was just happy to play well. It just went in, and that’s the way it sometimes goes. I wasn’t mad.”

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time in 11 games and for only the second time in 22. He has 35 points and 22 goals in his last 25 games, and needs one more goal to reach 50 this season.

In the Capitals’ locker room after the game, Ovechkin refused to answer reporters’ questions. Boudreau indicated that the NHL’s leading goal scorer and reigning MVP wasn’t just upset that he was stifled by Lehtonen, against whom Ovechkin had beaten more than any other netminder (16 goals).

“We did everything wrong that a team could do,” Boudreau said. “They played very smart, had a great goaltender and sometimes great goaltenders stand you on your head, and that’s what he did.”

The Thrashers have won two straight without captain Ilya Kovalchuk, who has an undisclosed upper body injury. Kovalchuk is fourth in the NHL with 36 goals.

Washington missed a chance to tie a franchise record, set in 1983-84, with six consecutive road victories.

Colby Armstrong scored his 17th goal by redirecting Rich Peverley’s wrister with 9:47 left in the first first period for a 1-0 Thrashers lead.

After Kozlov made it 2-0 with his 20th goal with 4:17 to go in the first, rookie Anssi Salmela used a backhanded wrister from the top of the slot for his first NHL goal. That gave the Thrashers a 3-0 lead 7:18 into the second.

Despite the winning streak, the Thrashers have an Eastern Conference-low 30 points at home.

“Certainly as a coaching staff and a management staff, it makes you feel good about your young players and the direction that we are heading,” first-year Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “There are still lots of games left. We care about ourselves and we care about each other.”

Nearly five minutes after Salmela beat him, Capitals goalie Jose Theodore was chased when Enstrom scored his fourth goal with a slap shot from above the right circle.

“They are hot right now,” Theodore said. “There’s nothing you can do. It was just bad luck.”

Washington, which has the NHL’s second-best power play, went 0-for-4 with an extra man. Atlanta was 3-for-4 with the advantage.

Eric Perrin’s sixth goal ended the scoring for Atlanta with 3:22 remaining.

This night, however, was all about Lehtonen, who improved to 10-6-2 against the Southeast Division-leading Capitals.

“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen him give,” Anderson said. “He was square on all those shots and was very confident out there, just batting pucks away.”

Predators 4, Kings 3

At Los Angeles, Ryan Jones scored the go-ahead goal with 2:18 remaining, Joel Ward had a goal and an assist, and J.P. Dumont had two assists to lead Nashville.

With their eighth victory in 11 games, the Predators overtook Dallas and Edmonton in the Western Conference playoff race and moved into seventh place. They are a point ahead of the Stars, and lead the ninth-place Oilers by two with 12 games remaining.

Anze Kopitar, Teddy Purcell and Michal Handzus scored for the Kings, who have lost three straight.

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