- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000


ATLANTA The Washington Capitals weren't satisfied with the embarrassment they laid on themselves a year ago in Georgia's capital. Last night they decided to do that defeat one better.

The Caps have now proved beyond a doubt that they can make absolute fools of themselves and that is something the Atlanta Thrashers gladly lent a hand in.

Washington allowed a second-year expansion team dominate play last night and then was very, very lucky to escape from town with a 3-3 overtime tie. The Caps are winless in three tries; Atlanta is winless in two.

To make matters worse, Washington might have lost defenseman Ken Klee. He was checked into the boards late in the third period and his right leg bent back awkwardly. Klee was assisted from the ice and did not return. His injury came on the night the Caps played their first game in more than five full seasons wherein they had every player on the roster available.

There is no part of the Washington game that passed muster last night. The worst part was the discipline, almost totally lacking. The Caps were penalized 13 times for 40 minutes worth, they were shorthanded 11 times and all three Atlanta goals came off power plays.

On the other hand, the Washington power play was hardly a factor, going zero for its five attempts against a team that usually surrenders when even there is a threat of somebody attempting a power play.

Left wing Steve Konowalchuk was ejected late in the first period when he was called for checking Petr Buzek from behind and jamming him into the boards. Konowalchuk, who had just 80 penalty minutes all last season, has 23 already and the season is only three games old.

"He was along the boards and I honestly thought I hit him from the side," Konowalchuk said. "If they are going to call things that way, that much tighter, then we've got to really watch what we're doing."

Washington was shorthanded 7 and 1/2 minutes of the first period, making it hardly a surprise that the Caps managed only three shots on Damian Rhodes. In fact, the Caps were so busy with perfecting their ineptitude that they still had only 11 shots on Rhodes with five minutes left in regulation.

Washington's goals came off a little luck and the few instances of hard work that the club produced. Peter Bondra evened the score eight minutes into the first period with a very quick wrist shot after the right wing intercepted a pass and converted in a flash.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar's first shot of the season didn't come until 10:23 of the second period but it was a goal, the former holdout using a Thrasher defender as a screen to blast a shot through.

The third goal came when Joe Sacco shot late in regulation, the rebound hung at the edge of the crease and stayed there until a diving Jeff Halpern tapped it into the net.

"We're disappointed," Halpern said. "We wanted to get things going. We wanted to get that first victory out of the way. I don't think we put out our best effort."

It was a point and it kept the Caps unbeaten (13-0-2 in their last 15 games against Southeast Division opposition, but it was hardly satisfying).

Team captain Adam Oates earned an assist in the second period, the 1,200th point of his career to move him into a tie for 28th place with former Cap Dino Ciccarelli on the all-time points list. Oates is seventh on the list of active players, three points ahead of former Cap Larry Murphy. The assist puts Oates three shy of 900 helpers for his career.

Notes NHL Breakout, a series of events with hockey themes, starts at 8 a.m. Saturday on 3rd Street NW between Constitution and Independence avenues and continues through Sunday, Oct. 15… . Correcting a series of statistical miscues between the team and the NHL: last night was not Konowalchuk's 500th NHL game, the final game of last season was. Somewhere along the line someone had incorrectly totaled the number of games he had played, which could have serious consequences down the line as far as things like retirement benefits are concerned… . Bondra's first period goal was the first scored by the Caps this season that Calle Johansson did not have a hand in.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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