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Kovalchuk ends drought, lifts Thrashers to OT victory

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ilya Kovalchuk is a scorer, plain and simple,
so he knew his first goal of the season had to be just around the
corner.

Still, he sure celebrated it vigorously, leaping off the ice and
pounding his right glove against the glass.

Kovalchuk's overtime goal ended his longest drought to start a
season, and his Atlanta Thrashers spoiled "Alex Ovechkin Tribute
Night" by beating the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Saturday.

"Finally," Kovalchuk said. "It was bad luck or something."

His winner came on a breakaway 3:02 into the extra period. Jim
Slater gathered the puck and skated up before passing off to
Kovalchuk before they reached center ice. Kovalchuk moved in on the
left side and whipped a high shot past goalie Olie Kolzig.

"He's a good shooter," said Ovechkin, a teammate of
Kovalchuk's on the Russian national team.

Kovalchuk -- the leading NHL scorer since the start of 2002-03 --
didn't have a goal in any of Atlanta's first five games this
season. Of course, that didn't prevent the Thrashers from now being
4-1-1 and atop the Southeast Division.

"When you win the games, it's easier if things didn't go your
way," said Kovalchuk, who also had two assists Saturday.

Scott Mellanby, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Sim also scored for
Atlanta. Kovalchuk assisted on Mellanby's goal 2:10 into the third
period, putting the visitors ahead 3-2. But Ovechkin -- presented
with his Calder Trophy during a five-minute pregame ceremony --
assisted on Dainius Zubrus' tying goal with 5:40 remaining in
regulation.

Chris Clark and Jamie Heward had Washington's other goals, and
Ovechkin mostly was kept in control. He didn't have a shot in the
first period, and only two in the second.

Ovechkin was presented with his award as the league's top rookie
in 2005-06 by general manager George McPhee as the player's parents
and brother stood nearby. The above-ice video screens showed a
highlight reel from last season, with Ovechkin -- only the second
rookie in NHL history to produce at least 50 goals and 100 points --
scoring goals, celebrating them and slamming opponents against the
boards.

Taped congratulatory messages from teammates were played between
periods, and commemorative coins honoring Ovechkin were handed out.
Fans also could pose for photos with his trophy.

And, when play began, it took all of 10 seconds for Ovechkin to
create excitement, placing a pretty pass in front of the net for
Clark, who couldn't convert the chance. Clark later did get his
first goal of the season, when he flicked in a rebound to tie the
game at 2-2 at the 15:38 mark of the second period.

The score stayed that way until Kovalchuk's slap shot was
blocked but not held by Kolzig, allowing Mellanby to tap in the
rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

The Thrashers were thrilled to come away with a victory after
giving up the winning goal with less than a second left at Carolina
on Friday night.

"Kovy's going to sleep like a baby tonight," Atlanta coach Bob
Hartley said.

Game Notes
Some fans booed after Washington failed to score while they
had a two-man advantage for 1½ minutes. Overall, Washington went
1-for-9 on power plays, and when asked what's wrong with that area,
coach Glen Hanlon immediately ran down a list of seven things, then
said: "How's that? That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?"