- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

It was just one lost point in a season that became hopeless long ago, but don’t tell that to Washington’s Brendan Witt and Olie Kolzig.

Witt’s penalty for roughing NHL goal-scoring leader Ilya Kovalchuk set up Andy Sutton’s power-play goal with 41.3 seconds left past the screened Kolzig as the Atlanta Thrashers pulled out a 2-2 tie last night at MCI Center.

“There’s no way I tried to cheap-shot Kovalchuk,” Witt said. “[Washington’s Josef Boumedienne] was having a battle with him. He skated back. I was coming around, trying to get out of the way, and I hit him with my hip.”

Kolzig, who had 43 saves, 38 after the first period, was even more livid.

“They want to call that [garbage] because we’re in last and that team is still trying for a playoff spot,” Kolzig said. “For the official to give them a 6-on-4 [Thrashers coach Bob Hartley had pulled goalie Pasi Nurminen] to decide the game is an absolute joke.”

Kolzig composed himself enough to stone Kovalchuk midway through overtime to preserve the tie.

Alexander Semin and Jeff Halpern forged a 2-1 lead with goals on the Caps’ suddenly sizzling no-name power play. Stripped of its stars after seven trades in the past two months, the unit has six scores in 13 chances over the last two games. Include Semin’s power play goal Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Washington hasn’t scored at even strength in 196:45.

“I’m just happy that this group has gone two games without having to spend the next day dealing with a loss,” said coach Glen Hanlon, whose team had been on a 2-10 skid.

When the Caps got their fourth power play thanks to Sutton’s cross-checking penalty at 6:38 of the second period, they finally took advantage. Boumedienne’s pass from the left point for Semin down low was broken up Daniel Tjarnqvist, but the defenseman fumbled the puck back to the 20-year-old Russian, who beat Nurminen at 7:51 for a 1-0 lead.

The goal was Semin’s third in the last four games and ninth overall. After going scoreless for 10 games, Boumedienne has five points in the last three games. Halpern, who has 13 points in the last 13 games and a team-high 37 overall, had the second assist.

The Caps tied a team record with just one shot on goal in the third period en route to being outshot 45-18.

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