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Lehtonen makes 39 saves as Thrashers top Capitals in shootout 3-2

ATLANTA - If Marian Hossa is headed out of Atlanta, the all-star made the most of his farewell.

Hossa had an assist and a save and Eric Perrin and Slava Kozlov scored on Atlanta's first two shootout opportunities to help the Thrashers beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 Wednesday night. Hossa and the Thrashers will not play another home game until Feb. 28, two days after the NHL's trade deadline. Thrashers general manager and interim coach Don Waddell still hopes to re-sign Hossa, but acknowledged a trade is an option.

"You never think about it," Hossa said. "You try to have fun. Have fun with the guys. That's the only way to handle it."

Kari Lehtonen stopped 39 shots before denying Washington's Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon in the shootout. Lehtonen, who also had an improbable assist on Hossa's goal, made a glove save on Gordon's shot to finish the win.

"He won the game for them," said Washington's Mike Green of Lehtonen. "He is a great goalie. We didn't put enough traffic in front of him. He saw every shot."

The win left Atlanta, Washington and Carolina tied for first in the Southeast Division.

Lehtonen's strong game was his second against the Capitals in less than two weeks. He earned a 2-0 shutout win at Washington on Feb. 2.

The Thrashers improved to 7-4 in shootouts and 13-4 in overtime. They were only 1:21 away from winning 2-1 in regulation, but Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 48th goal from the left circle to force overtime.

"Anytime you come back in the final two minutes to tie the game, it's a positive thing," said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. "Obviously, we'd like two points, but one point to get into the 60-point category is better than no points.

"It's like playoff hockey from here on out. I don't foresee any team pulling away and winning the division by eight or 10 points."

Viktor Kozlov gave Washington a 1-0 lead early in the second. The Thrashers answered with two goals in the final four minutes of the period.

Hossa set up Atlanta's first goal by Eric Perrin. Hossa came away with the puck near the boards behind the net and passed to Perrin. His shot went past defenceman Jeff Schultz, who may have blocked goalie Olaf Kolzig's view of the play. The goal 16:29 into the second tied the game at 1-1.

Hossa gave the Thrashers the lead with an unusual assist from Lehtonen with only 56 seconds left in the second period. Lehtonen made a stop and then quickly shot the puck straight up the ice to Hossa, who had only Kolzig ahead of him before scoring the breakaway goal.

"He saw me right away," Hossa said of Lehtonen. "We had a little eye contact. It's like half a second. He made a very good pass to me. I was just hoping. I was all open. I had a lot of time to do something."

Asked about the assist, Lehtonen smiled and said "I still believe I'm a better goaltender than a passer."

Atlanta fans chanted "Kari! Kari" following the play.

Washington seemed to be on the attack throughout the first period, outshooting the Thrashers 18-3.

"It wasn't the start we were looking for, that's for sure," said Atlanta coach Don Waddell. "Kari made us look pretty good in the first period."

Lehtonen made several strong saves in the period, including a glove save against Gordon 4:17 into the game that was upheld with an officials' review. Lehtonen's glove slid behind the line after making the save.

The Capitals took a 1-0 lead early in the second period. Lehtonen blocked a shot by Ovechkin, but was out of position to stop a follow-up shot by Kozlov at the 2:56 mark.

The Thrashers appeared to tie it less than two minutes later, but a review showed Perrin kicked the puck into the net.

Notes: Lehtonen recorded his second assist of the season. His first came on Dec. 18 against Tampa Bay. ... Atlanta all-star Ilya Kovalchuk has two goals and no assists in his last nine games. He is still second in the league, trailing only Ovechkin, with 39 goals. ... Ovechkin has 28 goals in his last 30 games.


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