NHL Game Summary - Washington at Atlanta
(Friday, October 5th)
Final Score: Washington 3, Atlanta 1
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Brent Johnson stopped 28 shots as the Washington Capitals defeated the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-1, in the season opener for both clubs at Philips Arena.
Michael Nylander, John Erskine and Viktor Kozlov each scored for the Capitals, who finished in last place in the Southeast Division last season with 70 points.
"We're going to have a battle this season," said Johnson. "I found out yesterday that I was starting the game. The Thrashers shots were outside, but we made sure the rebounds were smothered up. We have an unbelievable offense coming back."
Bryan Little scored the only goal while Kari Lehtonen let up three goals on 39 shots for the Thrashers, who won the Southeast Division last season, but were bounced in the first round in a four-game sweep by the Rangers.
"They worked much harder at the beginning of the game, got a quick 2-0 lead and were pushing and pushing," said Lehtonen. "We had a big boost not giving up a goal on the 5-on-3, but we could not keep up the momentum."
The Capitals scored a pair of goals in the first period separated by just 1:22 to grab a 2-0 lead.
On the power play, Nylander skated the puck from the right side of the net to the right circle unopposed and fired a wrist shot through a screen and over the right pad of Lehtonen at the 10:41 mark.
A bit later, a weak clearing attempt by Atlanta drifted to the left point where Erskine blasted a slap shot through a screen and into the net.
Johnson stopped all eight shots he faced in the first period.
The Thrashers dominated much of the second half of the second period and cut the score in half thanks to the speed of Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk came flying into the Washington end down the left wing, blew by the defender and sent a backhand centering pass to Little, who one-timed it on net and followed up the rebound by banking it off the back of Johnson's right pad and into the net.
Atlanta was down two men for 1:44 late in the second period, but Lehtonen made several big saves and the team killed off the advantage to remain one goal down heading into the third period.
Lehtonen made 12 saves in the middle stanza to keep his team in the game.
The Thrashers used the momentum they gained at the end of the second period and came out on fire to start the third, but Johnson made a couple of good saves and helped his team kill of an early power play.
Shortly after killing the penalty the Capitals took a 3-1 lead. Alexander Ovechkin fired a pass from the low left side to the right point where Mike Green fired a one-timer on net that Kozlov tipped past Lehtonen with 14:33 to play.
Atlanta pulled Lehtonen with under a little over a minute to play, but were unable to put any past Johnson.
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington's first round pick (fourth overall) in 2006, made his NHL debut in the game and assisted on Nylander's goal...The Capitals have scored a power-play goal against Atlanta in 14 straight games...Washington has its home opener on Saturday against Carolina...The Thrashers play in Tampa Bay on Saturday...Washington went 1-for-7 on the power play while Atlanta failed to score on any of its four chances.
10/05 22:52:28 ET