Flyers' Flurry Too Great To Overcome

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2008

Chris Clark returned from an 18-game absence and helped the Washington Capitals get off to a fast start on his first shift against the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday afternoon.

But the good times were short-lived for the captain and his teammates. Clark aggravated the groin injury that has derailed his season, and the Capitals couldn't overcome a series of costly turnovers or an 0-for-5 performance on the power play in a 6-4 loss at Verizon Center.

"Every time we tried something cute, or out of the game plan, or individualistic, it ended up in the back of our net," Clark said.

The end result didn't seem fathomable after the Capitals raced out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Alexander Semin just 82 seconds into the game. Clark screened Flyers goalie Martin Biron and was credited with an assist.

That, however, turned out to be the high point of the afternoon for Clark, Semin and the rest of the Capitals, who promptly surrendered four consecutive goals -- one on the power play and another short-handed -- to an opponent that was playing for the second time in 24 hours and third time in four days. Washington, meantime, had played once in the previous seven days.

Coach Bruce Boudreau pulled starting goaltender Olie Kolzig and replaced him with Brent Johnson in an attempt to spark his team after the Flyers' fourth goal. And for a moment the move appeared to turn the game's momentum. Alex Ovechkin, in his first game since signing a record 13-year, $124 million contract extension on Thursday, and Mike Green scored 4 minutes 38 seconds apart in the second period to pull the Capitals to within 4-3 and ignite the second-largest home crowd of the season. But they never fully recovered from the Flyers' four-goal surge.

"I think there was a lot of try out there, but we made too many mistakes," Boudreau said.

Boudreau didn't specify one, but the day's most damaging miscue came early in the second period. The Capitals were on the power play when Semin got knocked down in the offensive zone. Flyers winger Scott Hartnell snagged the puck, raced down the ice and dished a pass to Kimmo Timonen. Jim Dowd buried the short-handed rebound behind Kolzig (12 saves) to put Philadelphia ahead 3-1.

"Always seemed to be too cute," Boudreau said of the power play, which has come up empty three times in four games.

The loss was only the second in regulation for the Capitals in nine games (5-2-2). But it was costly given their precarious position in the standings, and because Clark may have suffered a setback.

"In the first period it felt great," Clark said. "We'll see tomorrow."

Clark, who didn't record a shot in 9:06 of ice time, appeared to tweak his groin muscle when he kicked out his right leg in an attempt to stop a pass with his skate late in the first period. He was clearly in pain, but continued to play until Boudreau shut him down after one shift in the third.

Another turning point came early in the contest. After Clark's goal, the Capitals failed to score on an ensuing power play. Instead of going ahead 2-0, Mike Knuble (two goals) jammed a loose puck past Kolzig after Jeff Carter's shot squeezed past the goalie, pulling Philadelphia even at 8:45.

About five minutes later, Michael Nylander was assessed a questionable holding call. Then, two seconds before the veteran center was due to come out of the penalty box, Knuble took advantage of a line change, charged the net and jammed in a rebound off Kolzig's pad to put the Flyers ahead, 2-1.

Dowd's goal extended the lead to two goals, and R.J. Umberger ended Kolzig's afternoon. Umberger fired a shot off Capitals defenseman Milan Jurcina's stick and Kolzig's glove 59 seconds after Dowd's goal to make it 4-1.

On the shift after Kolzig was pulled, Green launched a shot off Philadelphia defenseman Derian Hatcher's glove and past Biron (28 saves). Then Ovechkin snagged a drop pass from Viktor Kozlov and whipped a perfectly placed shot past the Flyers' goalie to pull the Capitals within 4-3.

For a while Washington appeared to be on the verge of a stunning comeback. But Mike Richards banged yet another rebound behind Johnson at 8:23 of the third period to restore the two-goal lead.

Nylander flicked a cross-ice pass from Nicklas Backstrom into the net with 6:51 remaining to make it 5-4. But Timonen scored into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.

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