ATLANTA – After Kari Lehtonen stopped all 10 of Alex Ovechkin’s shot, the reigning NHL MVP was so furious that he refused to speak with reporters.
It’s no wonder, considering the league’s leading goal scorer has beaten Lehtonen 16 times, more than any goalie he’s faced.
“Sometimes great goaltending stands on your head, and that’s what he did,” Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night. “We just weren’t very good.”
Lehtonen made a career-high 49 saves, and Slava Kozlov and Tobias Enstrom each had a goal and an assist to help the Thrashers win a team-record sixth straight.
Washington, second in the Eastern Conference and third overall with 229 goals, had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Lehtonen, who faced a career-high 50 shots, nearly earned his third shutout in five starts, but Eric Fehr spoiled the bid with 1:15 remaining when he swept in his 11th goal.
“It didn’t matter much,” Lehtonen said. “I was just happy to play well. It just went in, and that’s the way it sometimes goes. I wasn’t mad.”
Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time in 11 games and the second time in 22. He has 35 points and 22 goals in his last 25 games, and needs one more goal to reach 50 this season.
The Thrashers have won two straight without captain Ilya Kovalchuk, who has an undisclosed upper body injury. Kovalchuk is fourth in the NHL with 36 goals.
“It’s great to see new guys come in and play well for us,” Lehtonen said. “It’s just one game. We just have to enjoy this night and be ready to go again (Tuesday).”
Washington missed a chance to tie a franchise record, set in 1983-84, with six consecutive road victories.
Colby Armstrong scored his 17th goal by redirecting Rich Peverley’s wrister 10:13 into the first for a 1-0 Thrashers lead.
After Kozlov made it 2-0 with his 20th goal 15:43 into the first, rookie Anssi Salmela used a backhanded wrister from the top of the slot for his first NHL goal. That gave the Thrashers a 3-0 lead 7:18 into the second.
Despite the winning streak, the Thrashers have an Eastern Conference-low 30 points at home.
“Certainly as a coaching staff and a management staff, it makes you feel good about your young players and the direction that we are heading,” first-year Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “There are still lots of games left. We care about ourselves and we care about each other.”
Nearly five minutes after Salmela beat him, Capitals goalie Jose Theodore was chased when Enstrom scored his fourth goal with a slapshot from above the right circle.
“They were creating a lot from the left side,” Theodore said. “Every time there was a shot from the point, they were putting pressure at the net, which makes it hard for the defence.”
Washington, which has the NHL’s second-best power play, went 0-for-4 with an extra man. Atlanta was 3-for-4 with the advantage.
Eric Perrin’s sixth goal ended the scoring for Atlanta with 3:22 remaining.
By then, however, Boudreau was already trying to figure out why some of his players seemed to lack motivation.
“There were some effort issues,” Boudreau said. “Until we start learning how to get dirty … some guys are stuck on a certain amount of (personal) goals.”
Lehtonen played so well in improving to 10-6-2 against Washington that Theodore believed he deserves some credit from the Southeast Division-leading Capitals.
“For me, that was the best game that I’ve seen him play,” Theodore said. “It seems like he was seeing everything and always in control.”
Notes: Lehtonen’s previous high for saves was 46 in a 5-1 win at Detroit on Jan. 15, 2008. He faced 49 shots in a 4-1 loss at the New York Islanders on Feb. 16, 2008. … Kovalchuk declined to answer when asked his status before the game. … Playing his 190th straight game, Kozlov tied former Thrashers C Bobby Holik for the longest streak in the team’s 10-year history. Kozlov has 17 points, including two goals, in his last 17 games. … The Capitals dropped to 12-4-2 in their last 18 on the road. … Atlanta D Ron Hainsey sustained a leg injury and didn’t return.