- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

ATLANTA — If Peter Bondra wanted to tell the Washington Capitals they made a mistake by not signing him, he couldn’t have been more clear.

For the second consecutive night, Bondra helped his new team — the Atlanta Thrashers — drill his former one, this time 8-1 last night.

Bondra, the leading scorer in Caps history, had two goals and assisted on a third last night. He had a goal and two assists in Friday’s 7-3 victory at MCI Center, giving him six points on the season, all against Washington.

Washington fell to 1-2-0, while Southeast Division foe Atlanta is 2-1-0 and getting stronger. The team announced yesterday it had signed holdout left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who shared the NHL goal-scoring lead with 41 in 2003-04, to a five-year deal, giving it perhaps the best attack of any team in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps’ lone score came on a power play when defenseman Jamie Heward converted a beautiful setup from rookie Alexander Ovechkin, who now has points in all three games this season.

As has been the case all season, there was little flow to the game, with penalties preventing any chance to keep the game moving smoothly. Again, the Caps constantly marched to the penalty box as if some prize awaited them; they took 19 penalties for 41 minutes. Atlanta, meanwhile, took 14 penalties for 31 minutes. Little time was spent playing at full strength.

The Thrashers charged the net continually, making life difficult for goalie Olie Kolzig. He held back until 10:43 of the third when left wing Brad Larsen accidentally slid into the crease and net, knocking the goalie down.

Kolzig, who has been able to control a nasty temper in recent years, gave Larsen a shot, and others around the crease joined the fray. It took several minutes to end the chaos, but at the end the Caps were short-handed again.

“I think there was frustration that there was a lot of contact with the goalie,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “We’d been warning the officials all night. We were saying it’s got to stop, it’s got to stop. We went to the refs three times.”

Later, there was more contact, and Jeff Halpern, one of the few Caps veterans, was in the middle of it, scuffling with Serge Aubin. He had pleaded the Caps’ case with officials without success on numerous occasions during the game.

“Halpern’s our captain, and he wasn’t happy with what was going on, so he went and took things into his own hands,” Hanlon said. “That’s why I’m proud of him. That’s why he’s our captain.”

There is an optional skate and a team meeting today.

Note — The Caps juggled lines and shuffled the defensemen. They tried new combinations to patch holes that became evident Friday night, but from the result, it seems clear more juggling is needed.

With a team as young as the Caps, the changing lineup probably will continue throughout the season — at least until a stable, winning formula is developed.

For instance, Petr Sykora was the subject of considerable hype in the preseason because of his goal-scoring ability, but he did nothing to help himself by showing up unprepared to compete three days before the end of training camp. He was put on a line with two seasoned veterans, center Andrew Cassels and left wing Jeff Friesen, and given the opportunity to contribute right away. He didn’t, and as a result he didn’t play last night.

Ben Clymer was inserted on defense along with Nolan Yonkman, who played his first game, with Shaone Morrisonn and Bryan Muir taking seats. Morrisonn came from Boston, where he played 44 games after being drafted in the first round but did not stand out. Muir is more of an offensive threat than a stay-at-home defender and may have been replaced simply so the coaches could get a look at others.


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