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Thrashers snap losing streak as Hedberg holds Capitals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Apparently, the difference between the top and
the bottom of the Southeast Division is one goal.

Jon Sim scored once and assisted on Steve Rucchin's go-ahead
goal 27 seconds into the third period, lifting backup goalie Johan Hedberg and the first-place Atlanta Thrashers past the last-place
Washington Capitals 4-3 Friday night.

Dainius Zubrus scored twice for Washington, which has lost all
three games against Atlanta this season by the same score, although
one ended in a shootout and another in overtime.

"Right now, they're one goal better than us," Capitals coach
Glen Hanlon said. "They're at the top of our pack in the
Southeast, and we look at them as where we have to get to."

Atlanta ended a two-game losing streak, but not before trailing
2-0 as the second period neared the midway mark. The Thrashers then
netted three goals in less than 3½ minutes, helped by some odd
bounces off Capitals. Two of those goals came in 4-on-4 situations.

"The key was the willingness of the guys to go to the net and
create that chaos near the crease and make some tough plays for
their goaltender," Rucchin said.

Zubrus' second goal of the game and ninth of the season, with
5.3 seconds left in the second period, made it 3-3 heading into the
final period. Rucchin changed that right away.

Sim brought the puck to the blue line, where he passed it to
Rucchin. No one from the Capitals really challenged the center, and
Rucchin lifted a backhanded shot between goalie Olie Kolzig and the
near post.

"It was just a great pass," Rucchin said. "He was able to get
it to me in the middle of the ice there, with a little bit of room.
I was the beneficiary."

Said Hanlon, a former goalie: "Likely the worst thing for a
goaltender is to come out of the break with a scoring chance in the
very first minute. You'd always hope as a goalie to get an
opportunity to break in."

Hedberg was making only his second start and third appearance of
the season, replacing Kari Lehtonen, who was pulled from Atlanta's
previous game after giving up four goals on 13 shots.

Hedberg was steady enough, finishing with 24 saves, seven in the
third period.

"He gave us some big saves," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said.
"Plus, he moves the puck so well. He's real good around the net,
takes pressure off the defensemen."

Hartley said he hasn't decided who'll start in the net in
Atlanta's next game, at the New York Islanders on Saturday.

"The result is good, so that's all that matters," Hedberg
said. "I'm still trying to find a rhythm."

Washington went ahead 2-0 thanks to Zubrus' power-play goal and
Chris Clark's short-handed breakaway score. Sim's seventh goal
opened Atlanta's three-goal spurt 11:35 into the second period.
Greg de Vries was credited with the goal that made it 2-2 at 14:17,
and Vyacheslav Kozlov was credited with the next one, 35 seconds
later.

"We've had leads plenty of times this year and blown them, and
that's something we have to turn around. We're a better team than
what our record is," said Clark, Washington's captain. "Even
though it's early in the game with a two-goal lead, we have to come
out and learn how to play with that lead."

Game notes
It was the first time Washington lost in regulation after
scoring first. The Capitals had been 3-0-2 when taking a 1-0 lead.
... Washington is 0-5 in one-goal games. ... Zubrus' second goal of
the night came after a goalmouth scramble and was initially waved
off because officials thought a hand pass was made, then awarded
after a video review.