NHL Game Summary - Washington at Atlanta
(Friday, October 10th)
Final Score: Atlanta 7, Washington 4
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Bryan Little started a three-goal outburst in the third period as the Atlanta Thrashers downed the Washington Capitals, 7-4, in the season opener between two Southeast Division rivals.
Little finished with a pair of goals and an assist for the Thrashers, who picked up the first win for new head coach John Anderson. Atlanta went 34-40-8 last season, one year after reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
"(My stomach) was not good," Anderson said about his debut. "Had about 10 Rolaids, but I made the starting faceoff, so that was all right."
Vyacheslav Kozlov, Todd White and new signee Ron Hainsey each notched a goal and assist for the Thrashers, while Niclas Havelid recorded three assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 39-of-43 shots for Atlanta.
"The way we started last year, we wanted to come out and get our first win of the season in our first game," said Little in reference to last season's 0-6 start. "(It) could not have gone any better."
Mike Green had two goals and an assist for Washington, which won the division last season and lost to Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs. Alexander Semin had a goal and two helpers in the loss.
The Capitals' starting netminder, Jose Theodore, was underwhelming in his debut with the club after joining in the offseason. He allowed four goals on 17 shots, and was replaced by Brent Johnson, who gave up three tallies on 14 shots.
"We know we can play better than that," Johnson said. "Hats off to Atlanta. They started the season the way they wanted to. We climbed back in the game pretty well but had a few mishaps."
A fervent first two periods gave way to a third period that started out with a key save. Lehtonen stopped a penalty shot by Alex Ovechkin, last season's MVP after recording 65 goals and 112 points, four minutes into the frame.
That paved the way for Little's tiebreaking goal from the right circle that beat Johnson glove-side, giving Atlanta a 5-4 lead with 6:03 left in the game. Just 29 seconds later Colby Armstrong gave the Thrashers a two-goal lead with a high shot that again beat Johnson glove-side.
White's power-play tally with 3:53 remaining effectively iced the game. Ilya Kovalchuk sent a pass from the right side to the left circle for a one-timer that beat an out-of-position Johnson for a 7-4 Atlanta lead.
Despite the big win, the Thrashers came close to blowing a big lead they took in the first period.
Hainsey got the club on the board a little more than eight minutes into the game by stuffing in a rebound on the power-play. At the 11:24 mark, Marty Reasoner -- another offseason signing by the Thrashers -- recorded his first goal with his new team.
Then, with 6:12 left in the opening frame, Little obtained the puck on a rush and blasted it from the right circle past Theodore for a 3-0 Atlanta lead. Semin, though, got the Caps on the scoreboard just 23 ticks later.
Washington continued its comeback midway through middle period, with a shorthanded tally from David Steckel. Lehtonen stopped Tom Poti's initial shot, but Steckel got the puck in the crease behind the netminder and sent it into the open goal.
That came at the 9:10 mark, and just 20 seconds later Kozlov notched a power- play goal for the Thrashers on a wrister from the right side that ended Theodore's night.
Green recorded back-to-back power-play goals, at 13:47 and 14:39, to help Washington tie the game at 4-4 heading into the final stanza.
The teams split eight games against each other last season...Atlanta rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian, the Thrashers' first-round selection (third overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, became the youngest player in franchise history to play in a NHL regular-season contest. At 18 years and 87 days old, Bogosian took the record from Kovalchuk, who was 18 years and 172 days old when he made his NHL debut on Oct. 4, 2001 at Buffalo...Armstrong played in his 200th career game...Washington started the season on the road for the third straight season, and fell to 5-12-1-0 all-time when starting its campaign away from home.
10/11 00:46:56 ET