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Capitals-Thrashers Preview @NHLdotcom

Ilya Kovalchuk had a breakout game against the Washington Capitals. He'll face them for the second straight game looking to continue the momentum.

After ending a season-long scoring drought, Kovalchuk leads the Atlanta Thrashers when they host the Capitals on Thursday.

Kovalchuk's overtime goal ended the longest drought to start a season in his five-year career, and lifted Atlanta (4-1-1) to a 4-3 victory at Washington on Saturday.

"I'm glad for Kovy," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "He stayed with the program the whole time. He's not used to this. He was putting lots of pressure on himself. This should do him lots of good."

Kovalchuk, who had a career-high 52 goals last season and is the league's leading goal scorer since the start of 2002-03, didn't score in any of Atlanta's first five games. That, however, didn't prevent the Thrashers from climbing to the top 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.

Kovalchuk has 13 goals and 27 points in 23 career games against the Capitals.

Scott Mellanby, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Sim also scored for Atlanta on Saturday. The Thrashers have scored nine more goals than they have allowed this season.

Atlanta's success is due partially to an improved penalty-killing unit. The Thrashers have stopped 92.3 percent (36-for-39) of their opponents' chances with the man advantage. They were 25th in the league last season, killing off just 79.3 percent of opposing power plays.

"We focus on it a lot more this year," defenseman Greg de Vries said. "We're doing a lot more talking as a unit: What do we want to accomplish that night? What players we're going to face."

Washington (2-1-2) had a rare offensive outburst Wednesday, beating the Florida Panthers 5-2.

Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist as the Capitals scored all five of their goals in the first period and received points from eight different players. Washington hadn't scored as many as five goals in any of its previous four games.

Jamie Heward and Matt Bradley scored unassisted goals and Richard Zednik had two assists for the Capitals, who were coming off two overtime losses.

It was the first five-goal period for the Capitals since Feb. 12, 2003, a 5-1 win at Atlanta.

Washington's Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time since the season opener. Ovechkin assisted on a game-tying goal with 5:40 remaining in regulation last Saturday.

He has five goals and 10 assists in nine career games against Atlanta.

Getting a big lead in the first period Wednesday allowed Olaf Kolzig to have a relatively stress-free night in goal. He finished with 34 saves and lowered his goals-against average to 3.01.

"We took advantage of our chances in the first period and created some breathing room," Kolzig said. "As a goalie, that's what you like to see, because if you make a mistake it's still a three-goal lead."

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