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Lehtonen stars during Thrashers' win streak

Tuesday, 03.17.2009 / 9:00 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

A few thoughts before I ask Joaquin Phoenix for some advice on how to kickstart my rapping career:

Leht it ride -- For a while, it seemed like the Atlanta Thrashers were going to be the New York Islanders' top opposition in the John Tavares sweepstakes.
   
These days, we're wondering if/when the Thrashers will lose another game.
   
It didn't happen Monday night, as Kari Lehtonen made 49 saves in a 5-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Philips Arena. Ten of those stops came against superstar Alex Ovechkin, who was so frustrated that after the game he declined to speak with reporters.
   
Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time in 11 games and the second time in 22. He has 22 goals and 35 points in his last 26 games, and needs one more goal to reach 50 for the third time in his career.
   
"For me, that was the best game that I've seen him play," said Caps goalie Jose Theodore, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots. "It seems like he was seeing everything and always in control."
   
Impressively, the Thrashers have won both of their games since losing captain Ilya Kovalchuk to an upper-body injury. Lehtonen praised the working of the team's younger players, especially those who recently have been promoted from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. He's hoping to see a similar effort Tuesday night, when Atlanta looks to make it seven in a row at Pittsburgh.
   
"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)."
   
Lehtonen, who faced a career-high 50 shots, came within 75 seconds of recording his third shutout in five starts. Eric Fehr ended the bid with his 11th goal of the season. Fortunately for Lehtonen and the Thrashers, the game already had been decided.
   
"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."
   
While the Thrashers have no chance of participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, their franchise-record winning streak certainly is something the club can build on heading into next season. Rookie coach John Anderson certainly likes what he sees.
   
"As a coaching staff and a management staff, it makes you feel good about your young players and the direction that we are heading," Anderson said. "There are still lots of games left. We care about ourselves and we care about each other."

Fading fast -- The Los Angeles Kings still have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs, but their current three-game losing streak isn't helping matters one bit.
   
The Kings' woes continued Monday night, as they watched Ryan Jones break a 3-3 tie with 2:18 left in regulation in a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Staples Center.
   
It doesn't get any easier, either. Los Angeles will bring a six-game road losing streak into Boston on Thursday, the first of a six-game trip. The Kings are 13th in the Western Conference, six points behind No. 8 Dallas.
   
''We got away from our game,'' said Anze Kopitar, who scored his 25th goal of the season. ''We did a really good job of chipping the puck into their zone and getting the forecheck going, and we drew a lot of penalties off of that. But sometimes we get too fancy. They created turnovers and came right back into our zone.''
   
L.A. coach Terry Murray agreed. You could sense the frustration setting in as Murray spoke with reporters following his team's latest breakdown.

"It's a tough one," Murray said. "It starts good, but when it comes down to making plays at critical times in the game, we don't make the plays. Just basic plays."

"It's a tough one.  It starts good, but when it comes down to making plays at critical times in the game, we don't make the plays. Just basic plays." -- Kings coach Terry Murray on his team's loss to the Predators







With stops in Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago looming, the Kings don't have much time to right the ship. But that doesn't mean they doubt they can.

"We know we can do it," forward Michal Handzus said. "We've got to get better. We didn't play 60 minutes. I think we played 30 minutes really well and then 30 minutes not very well. Against those top teams, we have to play 60 minutes. We just to play a little bit better and we'll get some points."

Contact Brian Compton at bcompton@nhl.com.

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.
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