- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

ATLANTA — Look at the bright side of the Washington Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers last night. There’s one less game on the schedule, and they’re one day closer to the end of a miserable campaign.

After erasing a 2-0 deficit in the third period and appearing ready to end a three-game losing streak, the Caps gave up three late goals.

The winner, scored by Shawn McEachern with 6:08 left, came seconds after Brendan Witt hit the goalpost behind Atlanta goalie Pasi Nurminen. But those are the kinds of bounces a team like the Caps seem destined to receive.

“We’re pretty much at the stage where when the game’s over, it’s over,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “I don’t think you can expect anything else. Our kids played fine. I don’t think you can expect any more from them.”

The loss was the ninth in the last 11 games and fourth in a row for the Caps.

Appearing sluggish after their disappointing 4-3 loss a night earlier to Chicago, the Caps allowed the Thrashers to dictate play from the start. When Washington defenseman Josef Boumedienne hesitated before trying to poke-check Randy Robitaille, the Thrasher broke free and beat goalie Sebastien Charpentier low to the short side to open the scoring 6:04 into the game.

Midway through the second period, the Thrashers had a 35-second, two-man advantage when Brian Willsie was flagged for cross-checking and joined Stephen Peat in the penalty box. Thirteen seconds later, Andy Sutton’s wrist shot through traffic found the back of the net for a 2-0 Atlanta lead.

Willsie and Alexander Semin, who missed a scoring chance on a partial breakaway in the first period, enjoyed a measure of redemption on the Caps’ first goal.

With four minutes left in the second period, Semin’s attempted pass on a 2-on-1 struck defenseman Atlanta defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist’s stick, and Semin swatted in the loose puck for his seventh of the season. Willsie drew the lone assist.

At 8:15 of the third, Willsie’s long wrist shot off a lovely feed at the Atlanta blue line from Craig Johnson beat Nurminen to tie it.

But after a flurry of activity around Nurminen that included Witt’s close call, McEachern lifted a backhand over Charpentier to once again send the Caps to defeat.

“It’s tough. We put ourselves in a pretty good spot,” Willsie said. “I think maybe we can learn a little bit from that.”

Slava Kozlov recorded his third point of the night (one goal, two assists) when he scored with 2:01 left, and Kovalchuk later added an empty net goal. Dany Heatley added three assists.

The loss was the sixth of the season for the winless Charpentier, who battled through chronic hip problems earlier this season to return to action.

“The whole situation has been a mess,” said Charpentier who stopped 23 of 27 shots. “I’m just trying to get as many games in as I can. Of course, winning would be great.”

Already struggling to produce a full lineup, the Caps lost forward Dainius Zubrus when he re-aggravated an upper body injury in the second period. The team’s second-leading scorer with 27 points, Zubrus played only 1:08 in the second before leaving.

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