- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

It doesn’t take long — just a couple of minutes when a team is up against snipers of the caliber of Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk — to see a two-goal advantage wiped out, the momentum swing the other way and a game slip away.

The Washington Capitals outplayed Atlanta for vast stretches of last night’s game, but when the Caps slacked off, the Thrashers took advantage.

Atlanta defeated the Caps last night 4-3 at Verizon Center. It was the third time this season Washington has lost to the Thrashers by that score. One loss came via a shootout, one came in overtime and last night was in regulation.

“We fell asleep for a few minutes in the second and they are a good enough team — they have enough guys who can hurt you — that you just can’t do that,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “You can’t take a nap against a team like that.”

But Washington did precisely that. From the 11-minute mark of the second through nearly four minutes later, the Caps watched a 2-0 lead evaporate into a 3-2 deficit.

“We worked hard tonight,” Pothier said. “We just had a lull for five minutes and that’s all it takes against a team that good. … It’s hard when you’re always playing from behind. That’s a good team and they’re not going to give you back the lead without a fight.”

Jon Sim, who seems to have his best games against the Caps, started the barrage against Olie Kolzig at 11:35. Then, with the teams playing four-aside, Greg de Vries and Slava Kozlov scored 35 seconds apart.

“We made a bad decision on a 4-on-4 and got beat off the wall and that ended up being pretty close to the game,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “I thought our first period we played well and after that was a struggle.”

It proves that two old hockey adages are probably correct — that two-goal leads are the hardest to hold, and that the first game back after a road trip is tough to win because of fatigue.

“I thought we were the better team tonight,” said Chris Clark, who had a shorthanded goal early in the second for a 2-0 advantage. “We outplayed them. They scored on their chances. We didn’t give them too many but they definitely capitalized.”

Dainius Zubrus opened and closed the scoring for Washington, his eighth and ninth of the campaign; his eighth last season didn’t come until New Year’s Day. Alex Ovechkin had a pair of assists but no goals. Alexander Semin had no goals or assists in his fourth straight game.

“We’ve had leads plenty of times this year and blown them,” Clark said. “That’s something we have to turn around. We’re a better team that what our record is.”

Notes — Toronto-based Barenaked Ladies, Maple Leafs fans all decked out in Caps jerseys, sang the national anthem. They appear tonight at Patriot Center at George Mason. One member of the group joined Caps owner Ted Leonsis in his box for the second period. …

Last night was only the fourth appearance this season for Johan Hedberg, the Thrashers goalie. He burst onto the scene with Pittsburgh in 2000-01 and beat the Caps in the playoffs 4-2. …

The Hershey Bears, the Caps’ American Hockey League farm team and defending league champion, are 7-0-0-1. Caps prospect Tomas Fleischmann has points in seven straight games and has eight goals and six assists on the season.

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