By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 12:53 AM
Through the first two periods, it seemed the puck might never bounce the Washington Capitals' way Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Sure-fire shots clanked off the goalposts or crossbar didn't yield much. Series of odd-man rushes, breakaways and power-play chances fizzled - until the third period.
The Flyers held a two-goal advantage when the offensive floodgates opened for the Capitals, who rattled off three power-play goals in the final nine minutes of regulation to tie the contest twice and earn a point. Washington would fall short of a victory, losing 5-4 in a shootout to the Flyers, who now trail the Capitals by just two points and one win in the Eastern Conference standings. It's just the second loss of any kind at Verizon Center for Washington this season.
The lone goal in the shootout, by Danny Briere, proved to be the difference as all three Capitals attempts - by Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin - failed to beat Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher.
Despite being a little disappointed in the final result, the Capitals were pleased with the way they put forth a substantially better effort than the one that led to a 5-0 loss to Atlanta the night before.
"This was a hockey game we wanted to win," said Brooks Laich, who added a pair of assists. "But that said, there were a lot of positives in the way we played tonight. It's the way we have to play, to respond the rest of the season and in the playoffs. You're seeing our team grow after last night's embarrassment and we played a good hockey game [Saturday], just didn't get the result."
As is to be expected against the Flyers, who average 18.5 penalty minutes per game, there was plenty of special-teams play in the contest between two of the top three teams in the NHL standings. The game featured 32 combined penalty minutes, with Philadelphia benefiting from a season-high nine minors called against the Capitals. All told, four of the nine goals in the contest came on the power play.
Washington's frequent trips to the penalty box included four calls in the second period alone. The lack of discipline helped the Flyers, who entered the contest having scored on just one of their previous 15 power plays, erase the Capitals' initial 1-0 lead.
"When you take four penalties against a good team and a good power play, it's going to bite you in the butt," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The refs had too much control over the game [Saturday]. They had [nine] power plays and we had [seven] or something. . . . It was a tough game. If there wasn't any penalties it probably would have been a 2-1 game, that's the way it started out to be."
Both teams entered the contest looking to move past ugly losses in their most recent outing - Washington's against the Thrashers and Philadelphia's 8-7 defeat against Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Capitals got off to a fast start, generating scoring chances but unable to convert as the puck rung off the goal frame three times in a series of early flurries around the Flyers' net.
With just more than eight minutes gone in the first period, Washington broke through. Jason Chimera made a between-the-legs pass with his back to the net to rookie Marcus Johansson, who had space in the slot for a one-timer that beat Boucher and gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
But for all of Washington's opportunities in the first period - which included a misfire attempt by Ovechkin on a two-on-one with Semin and a tic-tac-toe, two-on-none play between Chimera and Tomas Fleischmann - Johansson's second marker of the season was all the Capitals had to show for the first 20 minutes.
"I was a little worried after the first period when it was only 1-0, because we didn't get rewarded for battling," Boudreau said. "Three two-on-ones, two breakaways, and those are the kind of times you put teams away. If you don't and let them hang around, something usually negative happens."
The negative came in the form of three consecutive Flyers goals. In the second period, on Philadelphia's fifth power-play attempt, a shot from the point by Chris Pronger ricocheted off Claude Giroux's leg and past Capitals netminder Michal Neuvirth. Four minutes later, Mike Richards scored on a rebound to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
When Jeff Carter snapped a shot to make it 3-1 in the third period, things weren't looking up for Washington, which had failed to score on seven straight power-play attempts, including their first four on Saturday.
Goals by Backstrom and Chimera on consecutive man-advantages broke the streak and tied the game at 3 before Philadelphia's Andreas Nodl scored on a nifty backhander to reclaim the lead. Eric Fehr added Washington's third power-play goal in less than nine minutes with just 39 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Special correspondent Greg Schimmel contributed to this report.