By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010; 12:53 AM
By virtue of two penalties by the Philadelphia Flyers late in the third period, the Washington Capitals spent nearly the final five minutes of Sunday's contest against the defending Eastern Conference champions on the man advantage, including the start of overtime. And the Capitals, whose struggles on the power play early this season have been well documented, knew they didn't want to allow the extra session to return to its even-strength format of 4-on-4 and risk giving the Flyers momentum in the tightly contested game.
When Mike Green gained possession of the puck just inside the Flyers' zone he skated to an open space near the top of the right faceoff circle where he saw a sliver of space between two Philadelphia penalty killers and fired a slapshot past rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the Capitals' fourth straight win, 3-2 in overtime.
It was the second power-play goal of the night for Washington, which improved to 5-0 in overtime and 6-1 in one-goal games this season while snapping the Flyers' six-game winning streak.
"We wanted to score on the power play, more for me for the confidence of the power play and it won us the game so it worked out," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought we were pretty patient and showed a lot of good restraint [Sunday]. We didn't retaliate and that was good."
The Capitals started the contest by spending the majority of the first period in the Philadelphia zone, but despite the strong showing out of the gate still gave up the first goal for the 10th time this season. On a two-on-one Nikolay Zherdev beat Washington rookie netminder Braden Holtby, who was making his first NHL start, to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. By game's end Holtby appeared comfortable and confident, but when the Flyers weren't generating many chances it was difficult to find a rhythm.
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, that they were going to score on me," said Holtby who finished with 23 saves. "I came into the game hoping for a victory and I knew I wasn't going to get a shutout in my first game. [I] came in and just tried to get the victory and work my way up."
In the opposite end, Bobrovsky, who was attempting to tie Philadelphia's franchise record for consecutive wins by a rookie goaltender held by Pelle Lindbergh, who won seven during the 1982-83 season, turned away the Capitals' chances. Bobrovsky missed the mark, but still stopped 36 of 39 shots in the game.
Late in the opening frame, however, Washington's diligence and success at hemming Philadelphia in its own zone paid dividends. Eric Fehr knotted the score at 1-1 when he drilled a shot from the left half-board wall in to the top corner above Bobrovsky's glove hand side. It was Fehr's third goal of the year and his first since Oct. 11 against Ottawa, but the Capitals' recent inability to take advantage on the power play quickly resurfaced.
The Flyers killed off a pair of penalties early in the second period without giving up many shots to the Capitals and once back at full strength seized an opportunity to strike again. Ville Leino redirected Andrej Meszaros's shot from the point for a 2-1 Flyers lead.
Although the Flyers held the advantage, they didn't manage to swing the balance of the game or create panic among the Capitals.
"Everything felt stable out there," said Green, who has recorded points in each of the past five games. "Everybody felt composed, there was no panic at any time. In the past we've gotten into situations where we've panicked a little bit and there's a lot of confusion. I thought [Sunday] we played pretty stable. Our first two periods were pretty important against this hockey team and I think that's what made the difference in the outcome."
Washington continued to dominate puck possession until finally cashing in on its third power-play chance of the game with Leino off for high sticking Green over eight minutes into the second.
Nicklas Backstrom corralled a rebound from Alex Ovechkin's shot on goal with the man advantage and sent the puck to Alexander Semin, who recorded his ninth goal of the season to tie the score at 2-2. With the tally, Semin extended his goal-scoring streak to four games - his longest stretch since February and March of 2009 when he posted goals in six straight - and has recorded seven points during that span.
It would be Backstrom who found Green standing alone near the blue line in overtime to set up the Capitals' go-ahead goal, for his sixth multi-point game of the season. Green's goal was the seventh power-play tally for Washington on 17 chances in the past four games.
Scoring on the power play in overtime was "especially big when we haven't been as successful as we've wanted," Backstrom said. "But I think it's getting better and better. It was a great shot by Mike and I think we're moving the puck a little bit better now and hopefully we can just continue that."
Capitals notes: Boudreau said Brooks Laich missed the third period with an upper-body injury. . . . Prior to the contest, Boudreau explained that the decision to assign Marcus Johansson to Hershey this weekend was to let the rookie center, who hasn't dressed for an NHL contest since Oct. 21 because of a hip flexor injury, ease back into game action. "We weren't going to play him [Sunday] so he'll go for two games, unless needed, and then he'll come right back," Boudreau said. "It's not sending him down, it's conditioning."