Hanging Tough

After a late-season surge puts the Capitals in the NHL's postseason for the first time in five years, the Flyers score a power-play goal in overtime of Game 7 to win the series.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 20, 2008

A few words scrawled in red marker on the dry-erase board in the locker room perfectly described the state of the Washington Capitals late yesterday.

"Sun. 11 a.m. Ballston," it read. Translation: There's at least one more practice -- and game -- remaining in their season.

Alexander Semin scored the Capitals' second power-play goal of the afternoon late in the third period, then goaltender Cristobal Huet made six of his 30 saves in the waning moments to help Washington hang on for a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in a must-win Game 5 before a sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

The victory cut the Flyers' lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to three games to two, with Game 6 tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Semin also set up a goal by Nicklas Backstrom, while Sergei Fedorov had a goal and an assist to earn the first star of the game as Washington bounced back from Thursday's heartbreak in Philadelphia, where it played well but lost in double overtime. The Flyers, meanwhile, received goals from Vaclav Prospal and Derian Hatcher and a pair of assists from Daniel Brière but, in the end, were unable to overcome a poor start.

"Right now, we don't want to stop," Huet said. "But we don't feel any satisfaction."

Saying Washington managed to "hang on" probably is an understatement. It was more like clinging.

The Capitals controlled the first half of the game, holding the Flyers without a shot for the final 15 minutes of the first period and opening a 2-0 lead on the goals by Backstrom and Fedorov.

The third period, though, was a completely different story. Philadelphia outshot the Capitals 21-6 in the final 20 minutes (and 32-26 in the game), and several times appeared on the verge of tying the score at 2.

But three consecutive power plays helped the Capitals steady themselves. On the third man advantage, Semin, who has two goals and two assists in the past two games combined, spun in the circle, then whipped one of his trademark wrist shots from the high slot through traffic and past Flyers goaltender Martin Biron (23 saves) to put the Capitals ahead 3-1 with 5 minutes 27 seconds remaining.

The shot was pretty, but more notable was the traffic the Capitals created in front of Biron, who didn't see Semin's shot because he was screened by Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Brooks Laich.

"We were just talking about how many guys were in front, and there's no way Biron could have seen it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

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