Caps' Penalties Prove Costly In First Loss
Flyers 6, Capitals 5

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 6 -- After the season's first three games, this much about the Washington Capitals is obvious: Scoring goals isn't a problem. Preventing them is.

Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each scored two goals and Brendan Morrison inadvertently sent one into Philadelphia's net with his skate. But it wasn't enough at sold-out Wachovia Center, where Mike Richards and the Flyers opened the home portion of their schedule with a thrilling 6-5 victory after a goal by Daniel Brière with 1 minute 8 seconds remaining in overtime.

Although the Capitals managed to earn a point against a good team in a hostile arena, the overwhelming sentiment in the visitors' locker room afterward was that they let one slip away.

"You take [nine minor penalties] in a game, you're not going to win that game, and we took six in one period," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's how four goals get scored against you. It's something that's unacceptable."

Despite the penalty problems, the Capitals had a chance late after a fluky goal by Morrison in the third period. All the Capitals needed to do was play 10:28 of mostly flawless hockey to seal the win.

It was anything but.

Boyd Gordon was whistled for holding and, moments later, rugged Flyers winger Scott Hartnell fired a shot that pinballed off defenseman Tom Poti and goalie José Theodore before tying the game at 5 with 4:15 remaining. It was the Flyers' third power-play goal.

Brière then delivered the decisive blow in the extra session. Theodore, who had come on in relief of a shaky Semyon Varlamov in the second period, stopped the original shot from the point. But Brière fired the rebound over the sprawled goalie to set off as wild celebration on the ice and in the stands.

"Tonight we were our worst enemy," Morrison said. "We came back and took the lead in the third, and that's a game we should have seal down and win. Tonight it was our penalties. We just couldn't stay out of the box. We have to learn this lesson quickly if we want to be a good team, not a great team."

Penalties, though, weren't Boudreau's only concern afterward. The coach also fretted over the confidence of Varlamov, who was pulled after allowing four goals in the second period.

"I thought there were some soft goals," Boudreau said. "Varly has to be mentally tougher to play. One thing that's reared it's ugly head right now is they score in bunches on him. I think he gets down on himself, and we have to get him out of that."

In the first three games of the season, the Capitals (2-0-1) have scored 15 goals and allowed 11.

"We can't afford to allow 10 goals in two games," Boudreau said, referring to Saturday's 6-4 win over Toronto. "You're not going win a lot of hockey games like that, I don't care who you have on your team."

Semin gave the Capitals their first edge, 3-2, after putting the puck through defenseman Braydon Coburn in the slot and scoring arguably the prettiest goal in a wild second period that featured a combined seven goals.

But the lead was short-lived. The Capitals once again ran into penalty trouble -- Brooks Laich was whistled for goaltender interference -- and Richards (three goals) made them pay. He beat Varlamov with an ordinary-looking shot from the faceoff dot to knot the game at 3.

Then only 18 seconds later, Richards restored the Flyers' lead with a second goal that appeared to be stoppable.

After Semin failed to clear the puck along the boards, Flyers defenseman Matt Carle fired a shot from the point on Varlamov, who mishandled it. Richards pounced and fired the puck past the rookie to make it 4-3 with 5:53 remaining in the second.

Varlamov (21 saves) was promptly replaced by Theodore, who ended up yielding two goals on 16 shots.

The loss also spoiled Mike Knuble's return to Broad Street. He ended up logging four shots on goal in 16:45 of ice time.

"You can't take that many penalties, not with five minutes left," Knuble said. "You have to stay out of the box late. That last penalty cost us."

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