By the time order was restored, blood was oozing from a cut on the head of Atlanta defenceman Vitaly Vishnevski and there were nine fighting majors handed out – five to Washington and four to the Thrashers. Oh, by the way – Bobby Holik got his 300th career goal and Atlanta scored three times in the second period to erase a two-goal deficit in a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.
“It was a frustrating game,” said Washington’s Ben Clymer, whose team lost its fourth straight and dropped to 0-2-2 against the Thrashers this season. “We weren’t happy with the way things were going with us and that’s what happens. That’s part of the game.”
Despite the Capitals’ loss, the home crowd roared until the final horn after a final minute filled with fights.
Washington’s Donald Brashear and Brian Sutherby received instigator penalties and game misconducts, as did Atlanta’s Scott Mellanby. Because the instigator calls came within the final 5 minutes, each of those could lead to a US$10,000 fine and a one-game suspension.
The coaches, Glen Hanlon of Washington and Atlanta’s Bob Hartley, could also be fined $10,000 by the NHL. The Capitals expected to hear decisions soon.
In total, there were a combined 176 penalty minutes, 144 of those handed out in the final 1:02 of play. Meanwhile, Hanlon and Hartley shouted at each other from the benches.
“It’s pretty hard to deny that when there’s likely five cameras in the building,” Hanlon said. “In the heat of the battle … that’s hockey.”
Both coaches said the verbal exchange continued in the Verizon Center halls. Hanlon said that despite holding the lead, Atlanta instigated it all.
“A 21-year-old kid with a cut mouth (Mike Green) gets his head knocked off,” Hanlon said, “and one of their players (Ilya Kovalchuk) is grabbing our captain and grabbing his cage and shaking it. Our players responded. What the heck are they supposed to do?”
The teams meet again on Dec. 15.
Before all that, Holik reached the 300-goal milestone.
“Whether it’s 300 or 299, the number makes no difference to me,” Holik said. “It’s the win that matters.”
Glen Metropolit broke a 2-all tie after Holik’s goal evened the score. Kovalchuk added a late goal and Shane Hnidy scored his first of the season.
“Getting the game-winning goal in this building, it means a lot to me,” said Metropolit, who played for the Capitals last season and was acquired as an unrestricted free agent. “It proves that Washington lost a good player.”
Washington’s Jakub Klepis had a goal and an assist one game after scoring his first goal of the season, and Matt Pettinger added a goal.
Johan Hedberg stopped 11 Washington shots in the third period and finished with 24 saves. Olaf Kolzig made 28 saves for the Capitals, but Atlanta benefited from two quirky deflections.
After Hnidy’s goal early in the second made it 2-1, Holik tied it 5 seconds into Atlanta’s first power play of the period. He won the resulting draw from the left circle and fed Kovalchuk, whose slap shot from the left wing deflected off Holik’s stick and past Kolzig.
Less than a minute later, Metropolit scored on his own rebound, knocking it out of the air and into the net from just outside the crease, giving the Thrashers the lead at 13:01 in the second. The play was reviewed to check for possible high-sticking, but the goal stood.
Notes: Washington LW Alexander Semin missed his second consecutive game with a shoulder injury sustained against Carolina last Friday … Atlanta D Niclas Havelid also missed the game while attending to family issues in Sweden … Atlanta D Andy Sutton had an assist in his 400th career game.