WASHINGTON – After watching Washington’s Mike Green, Alexander Semin and, yes, Alex Ovechkin run their power play to great effect, Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk was asked whether perhaps his team made too many trips to the penalty box Thursday night.
Kovalchuk’s reply began, appropriately enough, with a loud, long sigh.
“Yeah,” he said, “especially against that team, we can’t take that many penalties.”
Semin scored one of Washington’s three power-play goals and assisted on both of the others, including Green’s NHL-high 16th with an extra man, and the Capitals held on for a 4-3 victory over the Thrashers.
Green tied Scott Stevens’ season record for power-play goals by a Capitals defenceman.
“That power-play goal he got was perfect, textbook. A great shot,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Before he’s done, he’s going to break a lot of records.”
Green’s 23rd goal overall – most among NHL defencemen this season – came off passes from Nicklas Backstrom and Semin and snapped a 2-all tie 12:25 into the second period.
Washington’s first two goals, which came 53 seconds apart in the first period, also came with a man-advantage, giving the club 16 power-play scores in the last 13 games.
Semin got Washington going with his 23rd goal less than 4 1/2 minutes in.
With Todd White off for hooking, Semin took a pass from Sergei Fedorov just outside the blue line and split two Thrashers before putting a wrist shot into the upper-right corner.
Ovechkin also was credited with an assist.
On the play, Eric Perrin was called for slashing Semin, so Washington went right back to work on the power play and capitalized again.
Off a pass from Semin, Green’s slapshot was blocked by Kari Lehtonen but trickled past the goalie.
The puck appeared headed for the net, but just to be sure, Brooks Laich tapped it in for his 15th goal.
“He needs to get to 20 so I forgive him,” Green said with a smile.
It all amounted to further evidence that Washington’s powerplay is about as good as it gets these days.
The Capitals entered with a 23.8 per cent success rate, No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and No. 3 in the NHL, and just below the franchise record for a full season: 23.9 per cent in 1984-85.
“We take those two stupid penalties,” Kovalchuk said, “and then it was 2-zip.”
His 32nd goal of the season – on a power play, with the league’s leading goal-scorer, Ovechkin, in the penalty box – cut the deficit before Rich Peverly tied it.
After Green put Washington ahead, Eric Fehr added an insurance goal to make it 4-2. Fehr’s 10th goal turned out to be important because White scored a short-hander off Kovalchuk’s assist with just under two minutes remaining.
“Our history is that we do battle back, for the most part, and we did that,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said.
Still, Washington made the lead stand, and goalie Michal Neuvirth won his second NHL start to improve to 2-0. He and fellow rookie Simeon Varlamov are a combined 4-0 this season.
“The goaltending looks like it’s going to be OK in the future,” said Boudreau, who noted that No. 1 goalie Jose Theodore will be in the net for Saturday’s game at Eastern Conference-leading Boston.
Atlanta cut the deficit to 2-1 while Ovechkin was off the ice.
The league’s reigning MVP was called for roughing when he mixed it up with Marty Reasoner and Garnet Exelby.
Ovechkin seemed to be looking for a fight after Peverly’s stick hit the bottom of the Russian’s nose. Earlier in that shift, Ovechkin’s stick was broken when he was slashed.
Asked whether he tries to calm down his star under such circumstances, Boudreau said he does not.
“He’s like the Hulk,” the coach said. “The madder he gets, the more energy he’s got, and everybody else watch out, you know?”
Notes: The Capitals have scored a first-period goal in 14 consecutive games; the team record is 18. … Backstrom is on an eight-game point streak. … Capitals RW Viktor Kozlov returned after missing nine games with a groin injury.