In OT, Caps Are Blindsided
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Only 20 teams in NHL history have rallied from such a deficit to win a seven-game playoff series. Last night, the Washington Capitals' bid to become No. 21 came up just short.
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Joffrey Lupul flipped a rebound past goaltender Cristobal Huet on the power play at 6 minutes 6 seconds of overtime to beat the Capitals, 3-2, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals had rallied from a series deficit of three games to one and dominated the third period of Game 7 at sold-out Verizon Center, but were unable to squeeze one of their 16 shots in the final 20 minutes past Flyers goalie Martin Biron. It came back to haunt them in overtime.
Defenseman Tom Poti was whistled for tripping R.J. Umberger at 4:15 of the extra session. Then, just as Poti was about to return to the ice, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen fired a shot from the point. Huet made the original save, but the rebound kicked out to Lupul, who had slipped loose of defenseman Milan Jurcina in front. Huet looked the wrong way momentarily after losing track of the rebound.
"I thought it went the other way," Huet said. "They got a good bounce at the right time. It's definitely frustrating. But I think we played hard and we battled. But we couldn't find the back of the net before them."
Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Poti's penalty: "He tripped him. You can't deny he didn't trip them."
Boudreau then added, "I just told them they gave me the best year of my life, and I thanked them."
With a flick of Lupul's wrist, the Capitals' amazing run was over, their comeback from last place in the NHL, their near rally from a 3-1 deficit in this series, was done.
While it might have been Huet's last game in a Capitals jersey -- he is an unrestricted free agent this summer and likely will be coveted by many teams -- the status of the Capitals' other netminder no longer appears to be in doubt.
Longtime Capital Olie Kolzig, who lost his job to Huet last month, removed his nameplate from his locker stall after the game. Kolzig, 38, declined to speak to reporters, but his gesture spoke volumes about his future in Washington, and with the organization that drafted him in 1989.
But as the door may be closing on Kolzig's tenure here, it's just beginning for a young and exciting Capitals team that appears to be built for long-term success.
"It's disappointing, it's devastating," forward Brooks Laich said. "I don't know what to say. I think we're all kind of stunned right now."