Capitals Find an Easy Target

Philadelphia's Ben Eager skates across the ice as the Capitals celebrate a goal by Dainius Zubrus in the first period of Saturday's game.
Philadelphia's Ben Eager skates across the ice as the Capitals celebrate a goal by Dainius Zubrus in the first period of Saturday's game. (Haraz N. Ghanbari - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 17, 2006

One night after Alex Ovechkin almost won a game single-handedly in Atlanta, the Washington Capitals' less heralded Alex nearly did the same at Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin scored twice and assisted on another to help the surging Capitals put away the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1, in front of 15,021.

Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus also scored for the Washington, which continued its unexpected climb through the standings, improving to 3-0-1 in its last four games and 7-1-1 since ending a six-game losing streak late last month.

Semin and Ovechkin "have been there for us all year," captain Chris Clark said. "We've gotten some contributions from other guys, but those two have actually won games for us, like last night and again tonight."

The Capitals, who moved into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and pulled within five points of the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers, also got 21 saves from goaltender Olie Kolzig and were solid defensively.

Antero Niittymaki, meanwhile, made 27 saves for the Flyers, who dropped their sixth a in row, equaling the franchise record for futility. The Capitals are 3-0 against the Flyers this season.

"Over the course of the year, you are going to go through your ups and downs," defenseman Steve Eminger said. "The way you respond after a down period is what matters. What we've done lately is an encouraging sign."

The turning point last night came late in the first period -- and again, one of the Alexes was involved.

With Philadelphia clinging to a 1-0 lead, Flyers captain Peter Forsberg suffered a mild concussion after a collision with Ovechkin and did not return.

The entire Flyers' bench also seemed to be shaken.

"I wasn't knocked out," Forsberg said. "I knew Ovechkin was going to hit me."

It was Forsberg's first game this month after missing five in a row with a foot ailment and the flu. He set up the game's first goal with a long cross-ice pass to Mike Knuble, who beat Kolzig over his glove only 3 minutes 31 seconds in. But Forsberg was hurt about 13 minutes later.


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