By Tarik El-Bashir
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Ray Emery knelt on the ice, bowed his head and slumped his shoulders after Alexander Semin's wrist shot beat him over the blocker pad. It's almost as if the Philadelphia Flyers' goalie had just realized there's little the opposition can do when the Washington Capitals put it all together like they did in the third period Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
Semin scored the go-ahead goal early in the third, goaltender José Theodore stopped all 20 shots he faced in the period and Alex Ovechkin scored his second goal of the night into an empty net to clinch the Capitals' fifth straight victory, 4-2, before a sellout crowd.
"That was two teams that really wanted to win," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When they outworked us, they had a 2-0 lead. And in the last half of the second [period], we outworked them and tied it up, got a lucky goal in the third and we hung on."
Boudreau reunited his three best forwards -- Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Semin -- on the top line before the game in an effort to get them going. They delivered a vintage performance and sparked Washington's second straight comeback from a 2-0 deficit.
With a goal and three assists from Backstrom, the trio combined for all four goals and nine points.
"Who knows where it will be Thursday," Boudreau said. "But for one game, they were very good."
It was Theodore, though, who earned the game's first star. In addition to making 41 saves, his most as a Capital, he turned back Darroll Powe on a penalty shot early in the third period to preserve a 3-2 edge. Theodore, who has stopped 6 of 8 penalty shots he's faced in his career, has a 2.04 goals against average and a .939 save percentage in his last five starts.
"Like I said, in training camp I said it was the best I felt since the lockout," Theodore said. "Sooner or later, people are going to realize I didn't say that just for fun."
"That I've seen," Boudreau added, when asked if that was Theodore's best game since coming to Washington. "I'm sure he's had many more better than that. But he was really solid in net."
After falling behind 2-0 and failing to score on a lengthy five-on-three power play, things turned in the Capitals' favor late in the second.
"We got [ticked] off; we were so angry that we couldn't score," Backstrom said of coming up short with a two-man advantage for 1 minute 41 seconds.
Ovechkin added, "We try to use our skill, not simple play, and that's why we didn't score."
Moments after the Capitals were frustrated on the power play, the Flyers got a power-play goal of their own. Defenseman Braydon Coburn rifled a shot from the point past Theodore to open a 2-0 lead.
Such a turn of events would have dashed most teams' hopes of getting a win. Most teams, though, don't have the type of top-end talent the Capitals possess.
One shift after Coburn's goal, Backstrom bounced the puck on his stick, then flipped a pass to Ovechkin, who snapped a quick shot past Emery to cut the Capitals' deficit in half.
Only 2:04 after setting up Ovechkin, Backstrom scored on the power play, ending the Capitals' three-game power-play drought. Backstrom one-timed a pass from Semin between Emery's pads to send the game into the third knotted at 2.
Early in the third period, Semin completed the comeback. He used Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen, then unleashed one of his ridiculously hard and deceptive wrist shots. The puck hit Timonen's shin pad, changing its pace and trajectory just enough to fool Emery.
Ovechkin's empty-net goal put the wraps on a victory that helped the Capitals open a busy week in style. They've got three games over the next five days.
"We've got a thing: the first game of the week is the most important," Boudreau said. "It was great, against a good team, to start off really well."
Capitals notes: Eric Fehr (ribs) and Quintin Laing (flu) were sidelined, forcing Boudreau to play defenseman Tyler Sloan as a forward for the second time this season. Fehr was injured Saturday when he was checked in open ice; Laing was sent home from the morning skate. Both are day-to-day. . . . Flyers winger Simon Gagne did not suit up. The two-time 40-goal scorer has two small hernias in his right groin muscle and could require surgery. . . . Capitals center Boyd Gordon, who has missed the past four games with back spasms, is expected to return to practice Wednesday, Boudreau said. . . . Defenseman John Erskine (bruised hand) skated with his teammates in the morning skate but missed his fifth straight game. He remains on injured reserve.