- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Washington Capitals were the home team, the rested team and the team treated to an emotional high before the game when their offensive star, Alex Ovechkin, was honored at Verizon Center for winning the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.

But the Atlanta Thrashers stole the game from the Caps. And their offensive star — Ilya Kovalchuk, who hadn’t scored in a personal-high eight games dating to last season — won the game.

The Caps allowed a tired Atlanta team, which lost Friday night and flew to Washington before bedding down, to hang around long enough to earn a 4-3 overtime decision. Washington squandered several opportunities and lost what appeared to be a winnable game.

“It’s inexcusable,” center Brian Sutherby said. “You could almost tell in the first period they were a little tired, [but] we took a couple penalties and let them stay in the game. It’s pretty disappointing. A team coming in, having played last night in what was a tough game for them, we really wanted to come out and take it to them. Like I said, it was disappointing.”

But coach Glen Hanlon disagreed.

“The players can say what they want,” he said. “I won’t say it’s inexcusable. It’s certainly disappointing but not discouraging. We had ample opportunity to win that game. We had the better of the scoring chances, and we played a lot of areas fine. We had enough scoring chances to win. Over the course of 82 games, sometimes you win those games, and sometimes you don’t.”

Among the missed opportunities was a two-man advantage in the second period for 1:37 (Washington failed to convert on two shots). That was followed almost immediately by a double-minor the Thrashers took, wherein the Caps also failed to mount an attack, primarily because Chris Clark cut the advantage in half by taking a penalty himself.

Goalie Olie Kolzig didn’t have a particularly good outing, but he didn’t have the best support in the world, either. Washington’s big gunners — Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Richard Zednik — combined for 12 shots but scored no goals.

Defenseman Jamie Heward put Washington up 1-0 with a power-play goal 5:41 into the game, but Marian Hossa tied it on a power play before the first ended. Jon Sims, who has scored nine of his 36 career goals against the Caps, put the Thrashers up in the second, but Clark tied it. Scott Mellanby regained the lead for Atlanta early in the third, but Dainius Zubrus knotted it again with 5:40 left.

Then, just more than three minutes into overtime, Jim Slater recovered a Caps giveaway and started up ice. He spotted Kovalchuk to his left and fed the sniper the puck. Kovalchuk skated into the left circle and fired over Kolzig’s left shoulder, a goal-scorer’s goal, and the issue was settled.

Notes — Caps forwards Boyd Gordon (lower body) and Matt Pettinger (upper body) were the medical scratches; defensemen John Erskine and Bryan Muir were the coaching scratches. Erskine has yet to play this season. …

Center Petr Taticek, a Caps farmhand who had been assigned to Hershey, has left the team to return to his native Czech Republic and has been suspended by Washington. Taticek, 23, was drafted ninth overall in 2002 by Florida but has never come close to living up to his promise. He had one goal in his only game for the Bears this season.

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