WASHINGTON (AP) – Ilya Kovalchuk and the streaking Atlanta Thrashers brought out the worst in the slumping Washington Capitals.

Kovalchuk scored twice to raise his NHL-best total to 19 goals and added two assists Wednesday night, leading Atlanta to a 5-1 victory over Washington, which has the NHL’s fewest points and is off to its slowest start in 26 years.

A handful of disgruntled Capitals fans in the announced crowd of 11,669 began booing in the second period, but that sentiment grew in strength by the third, when full-throated jeers were joined by chants urging the team to dump coach Glen Hanlon.

There were cheers when it was announced over the loudspeakers there was a minute left in the game.

Everyone associated with the Capitals might have been relieved to know team owner Ted Leonsis was not in the building; he already had headed to Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Their 3-0 start to the season is a distant memory. The Capitals have lost five consecutive games, nine of 10, and 15 of 18. At 6-14-1 for 13 points, the team has its lowest 21-game point total since having 12 in the 1981-82 season.

Perhaps Washington can take some hope from what Atlanta has done.

The Thrashers opened the season 0-6, then fired coach Bob Hartley and put general manager Don Waddell behind the bench – and they are 11-4 since, including the current run of seven wins in eight games.

Kovalchuk has been leading the way, but he had a lot of help Wednesday, including Tobias Enstrom’s three assists, and Niclas Havelid’s goal and assist. Bobby Holik contributed his first goal in 15 games.

Alex Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal 21/2 minutes into the second period, his 14th score of the season. That, though, was the highlight for the hosts, who no longer are talking about making the playoffs – the way they did during an offseason of additions.

Kovalchuk tied the game 41/2 minutes later. Holik put Atlanta ahead 16:05 into the second period, and Havelid scored his first goal of the season with 31.8 seconds left. That last goal came off an assist from Kovalchuk, when Atlanta had a 3-on-4 rush.

Kovalchuk and Eric Perrin added insurance goals in the third period.

Notes: Washington scored first for the ninth time this season and is 5-4 when it does that; the Capitals are 1-10-1 when the opponent gets the first goal. … Washington came into the game 4-for-33 on power plays in November but converted its second opportunity. … Kovalchuk has scored in four games in a row.

AP-ES-11-21-07 2132EST


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