Originally created 10/27/01

Thrashers top Capitals



ATLANTA -- Ilya Kovalchuk took a shot from what appeared to be an impossible angle, and the puck somehow ended up in the net.

Kovalchuk's power-play goal backed Milan Hnilicka's third career shutout as the Atlanta Thrashers got their first home victory of the season with a 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

"That's a goal-scorer's goal," Atlanta coach Curt Fraser said. "It's low and finds its own way in."

Kovalchuk's goal, his fifth, came with 12:03 left in the third period - seven seconds after the Thrashers failed to score on a 5-on-3 advantage. Washington's Dainius Zubrus had just entered the Capitals' zone after leaving the penalty box when Kovalchuk scored.

Zubrus was finishing a two-minute minor for tripping and Peter Bondra was serving two minutes for goalie interference. It was the Thrashers' first power play of the game.

Kovalchuk took a pass from Frantisek Kaberle about even with the net and beat Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig. The puck skittered between Kolzig's pads.

"I'm going to work on that shot," Kovalchuk said through an interpreter. "Milan played an excellent game, and just because of his play, we were obligated to score the goal and win the game for him."

Atlanta had been 0-3-1-0 at home and beat the Capitals despite being outshot 37-21. Hnilicka stopped 37 shots.

Kolzig had 20 saves.

"That's my one weakness," Kolzig said. "The way my pads are designed, it's tough for me to squeeze them in that spot and he put it right through my legs."

Washington had several chances but its power-play unit, second-best in the league, was 0-for-6. The Capitals' final power play came with 3:37 left when Atlanta's Shean Donovan was called for holding, but Washington couldn't convert.

The victory was the Thrashers' first since they beat Buffalo 2-1 in the season opener.

"Tonight was the most complete effort we have given all season," said Atlanta captain Ray Ferraro. "We battled through some unbelievable calls against us, but our (penalty) killers were fantastic."

Atlanta's Tomi Kallio left late in the first period with a mild concussion. Kallio was knocked off balance by Washington defenseman Ken Klee and backed into the boards headfirst. He didn't move for several minutes before being helped off the ice.

Kallio went straight to the locker room and did not return. He will be re-evaluated Saturday.

"It just gives you a creepy feeling," Ferraro said. "The first thing I thought was he was moving his feet, so whatever's wrong, you know it's going to be OK."

Notes: Thrashers LW Darcy Hordichuk played in his first game this season. He was called up from Chicago of the AHL on Wednesday. ... The Capitals have played nine of their past 10 games on the road. They've played more road games than any team in the NHL. They return home Tuesday, where they're undefeated (2-0-0-0). ... Washington has scored first just twice this season, and hasn't lost a game in which it's led. ... At 26, Capitals co-captain Brendan Witt is the youngest captain in the NHL.