Thrashers End 2-Game Losing Streak

Saturday, November 4th 2006, 5:59 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Atlanta Thrashers coach Bob Hartley figured it was time for a goaltending change, so he made the move, and his team ended a two-game losing streak. Now Hartley needs to decide whether to stick with backup Johan Hedberg or go back to regular starter Kari Lehtonen. And he needs to make that choice quickly.

Hedberg won in only his second start of the season, and Jon Sim scored once and assisted on Steve Rucchin's go-ahead goal 27 seconds into the third period, lifting Atlanta past the Washington Capitals 4-3 Friday night.

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

He allowed a power-play goal and a short-handed goal as Atlanta fell behind 2-0. But Hedberg was steady enough down the stretch, stopping a total of 24 shots, including all seven he faced in the third period.

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

In other NHL games, it was Columbus 5, Calgary 4 in a shootout; Dallas 3, Edmonton 2; and Anaheim 6, Phoenix 2.

Both Washington (at Philadelphia) and Atlanta (at the New York Islanders) have quick turnarounds, playing road games Saturday night.

Shortly after Friday's victory, Hartley said he hadn't determined who would be in Atlanta's net against the Islanders.

Friday's game was the first in which Lehtonen didn't appear this season, but Rucchin thought it made sense that Hedberg was out there.

``We've played a lot of games, and you can't expect Kari to play every game,'' Rucchin said. ``We've got a lot of confidence with (Hedberg). He deserved to be there.''

Hedberg was making only his third appearance of the season. Lehtonen was pulled from Atlanta's previous game after giving up four goals on 13 shots; he had allowed 17 goals over his past four starts.

Hedberg, signed as a free agent in the offseason, only had to deal with two shots through the first 11 minutes. Then he gave up two goals over the next 11.

But Atlanta came back by scoring three goals in 3 1/2 minutes during the second period, including twice during 4-on-4 situations.

Dainius Zubrus scored twice for Washington, which has lost all three games against Southeast Division leader 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.''

Zubrus' second goal of the game and ninth of the season, with 5.3 seconds left in the middle period, made it 3-all heading into the third. 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.''

Blue Jackets 5, Flames 4, SO

At Columbus, Ohio, Manny Malhotra scored in the 11th shootout round to give the host Blue Jackets a victory over Calgary. It was the second-longest shootout this season.

David Vyborny had two goals, Sergei Fedorov had a goal and an assist, and Ron Hainsey and Fredrik Modin each had two assists for Columbus, which had lost six of seven. The Blue Jackets improved to 8-2-1 at home in the series against Calgary. Duvie Westcott also had a goal.

Daymond Langkow, slumping early in the season, broke out with a goal and two assists. Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf each added a goal and an assist for the Flames, who have lost four in a row overall and five straight on the road. Alex Tanguay added a goal.

Stars 3, Oilers 2

At Edmonton, Alberta, Trevor Daley's second-period goal lifted the visiting Stars.

Ales Hemsky appeared to score the tying goal with 4 seconds left, but it was disallowed because of a hand pass off of the faceoff. That prompted the home fans to litter the ice with debris.

Dallas captain Brendan Morrow and Niklas Hagman also scored for the Stars (11-2), who are off to the best start in team history.

Ryan Smyth and Petr Sykora scored for the Oilers (7-6).

Ducks 6, Coyotes 2

At Anaheim, Calif., Andy McDonald scored on a penalty shot in Anaheim's four-goal second period and the Ducks improved on the best start in franchise history.

Chris Kunitz Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger scored power-play goals, and the Ducks (10-0-4) grabbed the NHL points lead with 24 _ one more than Buffalo (11-0-1), the only other team without a regulation loss.

Anaheim is one game shy of the longest point streak from the start of a season in NHL history, set by the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers (12 wins, three ties).

Dustin Penner and Sean O'Donnell also scored and Pronger had two assists, helping the Ducks beat Phoenix for the seventh straight time. Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves and is 7-0 against Phoenix with a 1.71 goals-against average.

Patrick Fischer and Mike Comrie scored third-period goals for the Coyotes (3-10), 18 points behind Anaheim in the Pacific Division.