By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 6, 2009
PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals' biggest ally Saturday night wore orange and black.
After Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo sucker-punched Matt Bradley late in the first period, the Capitals' power play struck back with even more force, scoring three times on the ensuing nine-minute advantage to key a surprisingly easy 8-2 victory at Wachovia Center.
The victory stretched the Capitals' winning streak to five games and ruined Peter Laviolette's debut behind the Flyers' bench.
Six Capitals scored, including two goals apiece by Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Green, and 11 players notched at least a point, led by Nicklas Backstrom's five (goal, four assists) and Green's four. Backstrom surpassed Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in points, while Green pulled even with the two-time MVP.
"We have guys who step up and play when he's not in the lineup," said Green, who also assumed the league lead in points among defensemen. "We know how important he is to our team, and when he's not there, we have to play better."
Asked about catching up to Ovechkin, who was serving the second game of a two-match suspension, Green cracked, "Alex better pick it up."
Even David Steckel got in on the action, scoring his first goal since Game 6 of the Pittsburgh playoff series this past spring. In an effort to end Steckel's drought, Coach Bruce Boudreau put him out with Backstrom, Green and Alexander Semin on a late power play.
"I had a smile ear to ear, and I'll probably have one all night long," said Steckel, whose goal, the Capitals' eighth, wrapped up Washington's most lopsided win of the season. "It's been a long year for me so far."
What figured to be a back-and-forth battle between rivals changed in a matter of seconds late in the first period.
With the score tied 1-1, Bradley finished his check on Carcillo along the sideboards. Carcillo took exception to the clean hit and delivered a cross-check to Bradley's back. By the time Bradley realized he was being engaged, Carcillo had dropped his gloves, cocked his fist and delivered a right jab to Bradley's jaw, dropping the winger to the ice.
Carcillo's sucker-punch sabotaged his fragile team's hopes. The Flyers' leader in penalty minutes was assessed two for cross-checking, two more for instigating, a five-minute fighting major, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. He also could face further punishment from the league.
"I haven't had a chance to see it, but I know I hadn't dropped my gloves yet," Bradley said. "Maybe it's my fault for not expecting that. I was willing to fight him and didn't get going. Obviously I had my bell rung and was a little woozy."
Boudreau said: "I'd have to look at it, but he certainly got a jump on him. Looked like Daniel was ready, and I don't know if Matt was."
What was ready, though, was José Theodore and the Capitals' power play. Theodore (34 saves) made a critical save on a short-handed opportunity early in the advantage. Then the Capitals set up in the Flyers' zone and put the game away.
Fleischmann scored the second of his two goals to restore Washington's lead at 16 minutes of 40 seconds of the first. On Washington's next shot, Green's first of two made it 3-1.
The rout was on.
Only 36 seconds into the second period, Brooks Laich beat Ray Emery. Then Chris Clark scored on an ordinary-looking wrist shot, forcing Laviolette to make the first goaltending change of his Flyers tenure. Emery yielded five goals on 17 shots.
Brian Boucher, however, fared no better. Backstrom and Green each scored late in the second period to make it 7-1.
The outburst marked the second time in two games the Capitals blew out their opponent. On Thursday, they beat Florida, 6-2. Both came with Ovechkin watching from the press box.
Capitals notes: Prospect Chris Bourque was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh on Saturday, two months after he was waived by Washington. Bourque, who had three assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-4 in 20 games with the Penguins, was sent to the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. . . .
Late in the second period, referee Stephane Auger was struck on the side of the head by a deflected puck. A portion of the crowd erupted in cheers as he lay on the ice. . . .
Mike Knuble (broken finger) is traveling with the team and is eligible to return from the long-term injury list on Wednesday, though it's possible he won't suit up until Friday. Shaone Morrisonn (concussion) is also on the trip, but he missed his eighth consecutive game.