Perhaps it was all the penalties. Perhaps it was the general ineptness of Atlanta's defense. It might even have been the two quick power play goals in the first period. But whatever the reason, last night's 4-3 Washington Capitals win over the Atlanta Thrashers didn't seem anywhere near as close as the score would attest to, as the Caps fairly dominated their cellar-swelling division rival.

Atlanta's defense is one of the worst in the NHL, evidenced by allowing the fourth most shots in the league and the highest number of goals allowed, and last night was no exception. In addition to the four goals surrendered, the Caps (39-18-5-83, first in Southeast, second in East) registered 40 shots on goal and controlled the puck for minutes at a time in Atlanta's zone.

For one 15 minutes stretch during the second and third periods, the Thrashers managed just four shots on net, and had seven total in each of the last two periods.

In addition to the shoddy defense work, Atlanta took eight minor penalties, and Washington cashed those in, scoring on three of the eight power plays. Shockingly, Alex Ovechkin was not part of the Caps' goal-scoring parade.

Alexander Semin started the parade with his 23rd of the season just 4:27 into the affair. With Todd White off for hooking, Semin took a pass from Sergei Fedorov just outside the blue line and split two Thrashers before putting a wrist shot top-shelf on Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen (36 saves).

Eric Perrin was called for slashing on the goal, so Washington went right back on the power play. Mike Green unleashed a slap shot less than a minute later which trickled through Lehtonen, and Brooks Laich slapped it home as it bounced toward the Atlanta goal for his 15th of the season.

"He [Laich] needs to get to 20 so I forgive him," Green said chuckling.

Atlanta got a power play goal to halve the lead by Ilya Kovalchuk, his 32nd of the season, with Ovechkin off for roughing. Ovie went after Rich Peverley, who hit Ovechkin in the face with his stick as Ovie was maneuvering though the Atlanta zone. Inexplicably there was no call on the play--which looked intentional--and Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.

Green added a power play goal on a laser that beat Kovalchuk high, and Eric Fehr added insurance in the third period. Atlanta got a late goal from Todd White, but Caps rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth, making his first home start, made the lead stand up.

Neuvirth made 21 saves, several on odd-man rushes, for his second victory of the season. "The goaltending looks like it's going to be OK in the future," said Boudreau, who noted that No. 1 goalie Jose Theodore will be in the net for Saturday's game at Eastern Conference-leading Boston.

04:27 Power Play-Alexander Semin (23), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fedorov, Ovechkin
05:20 Power Play-Brooks Laich (15), Tip-In. Assist: Green, Semin
16:11 Power Play-Ilya Kovalchuk (32), Wrist Shot. Assist: White, Kozlov

03:56 Rich Peverley (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Havelid, Enstrom
12:25 Power Play-Mike Green (23), Slap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Semin

04:47 Eric Fehr (10), Wrist Shot. Assist: Morrisonn, Steckel
18:03 Short-Todd White (16), Slap Shot. Assist: Kovalchuk, Reasoner

1. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
2. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. I. Kovalchuk - ATL (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Mike Green scored his 16th power play goal of the season, breaking the mark set by Scott Stevens in 1984-85. Green also passed Tomas Vanek of Buffalo for the NHL lead in PP goals this season. With his assist on Green's power play goal, Niklas Backstrom extended his point streak to eight games. Viktor Kozlov returned to the first line after missing nine games with a groin injury. Fehr has seven goals and 12 points in the last 13 games. Michael Nylander and Staffan Kronwall were healthy scratches.