Caps Bring It Back Home

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, April 21 -- All season, the Washington Capitals have been counted out. It happened when they started out 6-14-1. It happened when Philadelphia took a three games to one lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last week, and again when the Flyers pushed them to the edge of extinction in Game 6.

Each time, though, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates have stunned their doubters -- and Monday night was no exception. The Capitals scored four straight goals -- Ovechkin notched two of them in the third period -- to win 4-2 and force a seventh and decisive game in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

"Nobody believe in us, that we're a done team," said Ovechkin, who led the NHL in goals and points in the regular season but had been limited to a goal and four assists in the series' first five games until breaking out with his team's season on the line. "But it's not over. Tomorrow will be the biggest game in our career. We won't stop, we just want to continue what we do right now."

Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals will play the sixth Game 7 in franchise history and attempt to become only the 21st team in the history of the National Hockey League to come all the way back from a three-games-to-one deficit. They rallied from down 3-1 to beat the Flyers in 1988 and are 1-4 all-time in Game 7s. If the Capitals win, they will face postseason nemesis Pittsburgh in the next round.

"My experience is that we've won nothing," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We know how resilient they are. They had a hard schedule coming down the stretch and they won when they had to."

The coaching staff "told our team that they had five minutes to be happy," Boudreau said after the game. "Then it's business as usual. If we think we've won it, we're going to be in for a bad shock."

Early on in the game Monday night, it appeared the Capitals were about to experience one of those bad shocks. Facing elimination, they trailed the Flyers, 2-0, after power-play goals by Mike Richards and Daniel Brière.

But the Capitals didn't fold when they were in last place in the NHL. And they didn't Monday, either. Linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin each tallied in the second period to send the game into the third tied at 2.

That's when Ovechkin showed once again why he's the leading candidate to earn league MVP honors. He broke the tie on a breakaway goal at 2 minutes 46 seconds, then clinched the win with a one-timer on the power play at 10:41. He finished with a series-high nine shots on goal.

"Well, we had no doubts in this room," said goaltender Cristobal Huet, who was solid in making 33 saves. "It's good for him and for his confidence."

Boudreau added: "I was so happy for him because you could see that he was starting to get a little bit frustrated and they were doing such a good job on him. But he persevered."

The third period began with Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn ringing a shot off the post. That would have put the Flyers ahead 3-2. But instead, moments later, a deflected puck landed on the stick of Viktor Kozlov, who sent a pass straight up the middle to Ovechkin. The 22-year-old Russian split Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Coburn, the players who were largely responsible for keeping him in check through the first five games. Ovechkin burst into the zone, froze Flyers goalie Martin Biron with his signature leg lift, then snapped the puck into the upper corner over the goalie's glove.

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