The New Broad Street Bullies

Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who scored the Capitals' first goal, steals the puck from Philadelphia's sprawled Mike Knuble.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who scored the Capitals' first goal, steals the puck from Philadelphia's sprawled Mike Knuble. (By Chris Mcgrath -- Getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 10, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 9 -- The Washington Capitals ended eight years of frustration here five weeks ago. Saturday night, an unlikely hero helped them win two in a row on Broad Street for the first time in almost 13 years.

Defenseman Bryan Muir scored early in the third period and backup goaltender Brent Johnson made sure they hung on for a 5-3 victory over the Peter Forsberg-less Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center.

"There's some games you should win, you need to win, and this was one of them," said Capitals captain Chris Clark, who registered a goal and an assist. "We were ahead of them in the standings and coming off the loss [Friday night] you wanted to rebound and show ourselves that it was a game in the past and not dwell on it."

The win came 24 hours after Washington had a four-game winning streak snapped at home, 6-1, by the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks.

Muir broke a 3-3 tie with his second goal of the season at 7 minutes 40 seconds, and winger Matt Pettinger clinched the win with his 10th with 51 seconds remaining.

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists and Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals, and Johnson stopped 33 shots, including all 14 he faced in the third period. Johnson's counterpart, Antero Niittymaki, faced 32 shots.

"That was a good game for me, considering I didn't really know how I felt going into it," Johnson said. "I was a little sore in the groin area. But it just worked out. It's still sore, but I'll be okay."

The Flyers, meantime, lost more than just their third straight game. Forwards Geoff Sanderson and Mike Richards left the game in the second period with abdominal strains. Both are expected to miss significant playing time, perhaps longer if surgery is required.

The injuries to Sanderson and Richards diminished the Flyers' already depleted lineup. They already were without winger Sami Kapanen (back spasms) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (abdominal strain) and Forsberg (right foot).

Which is what made this game an absolute must for the Capitals, who hadn't won back-to-back in Philadelphia since Jan. 29 and Feb 2, 1994.

"Heading into the third period, whoever wanted this game more was going to win," Dainius Zubrus said. "We knew they had some injuries . . . . We took too many penalties and gave them too many chances. But overall we played well. We'll take this win."

Both teams were playing for the second consecutive night. And it certainly looked like it. The opening period featured little notable action, with the exception of yet another goal by Ovechkin sure to make the nightly highlight reels.

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