- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

ATLANTA — In one of the most powerful efforts of his brief but brilliant career, Alex Ovechkin scored to put the Washington Capitals up in the first period, tied the game with 31 seconds left in regulation, and then won it 6 seconds into overtime.

Ovechkin’s performance lifted the Caps to a 3-2 overtime victory against Atlanta last night, Washington’s first win over the Thrashers in five tries this season.

It was a physical game but lacked any fisticuffs, which was expected. The teams engaged in a series of fights during their last game, followed by three suspensions and heavy fines for the coaches.

“I just try to shoot puck and score some goals and today I had luck,” Ovechkin said. “Last game against Atlanta, it was just game, just a moment. I think both teams just forget it and we just play hockey. I think we deserved this win.”

Ovechkin played his usual intense game. When he wasn’t pressing the attack, he was helping out on defense — and at one point went nose-to-nose with Atlanta left wing Eric Boulton.

The hat trick was the second of Ovechkin’s career. His first came last Jan. 13 in Anaheim, also a 3-2 overtime win.

“Ovechkin never ceases to surprise us,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “He found some space and reminded us a bit of the goal he scored in Anaheim last year. He was focused to score.

“I’m just proud of my guys,” the coach said. “I thought it was a solid team win. We came back tonight and played our best game of the year without a doubt.”

Ovechkin put the Caps up 1-0 nine minutes into the first period on a power play goal. Jon Sim scored for Atlanta in the second to tie the score and 14 minutes into the third, J.P. Vigier put the Thrashers up 2-1.

But Vigier’s moment of glory was short-lived. He took a critical penalty late in the third and the Caps pulled goalie Brent Johnson, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage. With 31 seconds left, Ovechkin ripped a hard shot from the right hash marks, tying the game at 2-2.

Ovechkin then won the game before the players on the ice had a chance to settle in, beating goalie Kari Lehtonen just six seconds into overtime. The win was the Caps’ second outside of regulation this season.

The game was in stark contrast to a matchup against Atlanta earlier this season, where Washington took a lead into the final minute only to see the Thrashers tie the game, then win it in overtime.

“We can say that we are leaving with a point but that is not acceptable and not good enough,” Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. “That’s a loser’s mentality. I feel that we lost a point.”

Notes — Left wing Matt Bradley (injured hand) was close to returning but didn’t play. General manager George McPhee said last night that right wing Richard Zednik had abdominal surgery a week ago and would be out for about another five weeks. He has been out since the second period of the Buffalo game Dec. 2 with a groin problem. The healthy scratch last night was defenseman Bryan Muir.

Comcast announcers Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will broadcast tonight’s game against Philadelphia from ice level in the space between the benches, believed to be the first time that has been done in a U.S. telecast.

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