Capitals vs. Flyers: Washington's latest comeback attempt falls short as Philadelphia wins in overtime

The Washington Post's LaVar Arrington, Cindy Boren, Rick Maese and Jonathan Forsythe preview the Capitals' upcoming road trip to Philadelphia, New York and Toronto.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 19, 2011; 12:01 AM

PHILADELPHIA - At some point, one would guess that the Washington Capitals couldn't keep playing this way - that they would grow weary of letting the balance of a game hang in the latter half of regulation or beyond. If that time is coming, it certainly didn't arrive Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The refrain remained the same at Wells Fargo Center as the Capitals, for the fourth time in the last five games, altered their complexion late in the contest to mount a comeback attempt. This time the rally would be enough to force overtime and earn a point, but not a full victory as the Flyers defeated Washington, 3-2, in overtime.

One minute seven seconds into the extra session, Andrej Meszaros rifled a shot past Semyon Varlamov after the Capitals scored two goals in the third period to extend the contest beyond regulation.

While gaining a point is undoubtedly positive, it's not what Washington wanted to accomplish. The Capitals (58 points) trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by one for ownership of first place in the Southeast Division, and for Alex Ovechkin, executing the plan of driving the net and sustaining pressure with the forecheck for 20 minutes instead of a full 60 has grown tiresome.

"After every game we say if we score one goal ugly we think like okay, this gets us going. It has to be every game, working hard," Ovechkin said. "All guys in this room understand if we work hard and if we use our skill nobody can stop us. Right now you can see first two periods. . . . We have probably four shots on net, six shots on net. That's not our game. We have to go to the net, find the rebound, crash the net, make some hits and be angry."

As has become customary for the Capitals, they conceded the first goal in rapid fashion. A bad pinch up ice by Matt Hendricks created space for Jeff Carter going the other way. Starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth didn't react well to the initial chance and wasn't able to get to left post to stop Carter's wrap-around attempt, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 1 minute 31 seconds into the contest.

Neuvirth's seemingly limited movement on that play hinted at a larger issue as the goaltender couldn't finish the contest, did not return to the ice after the first period and is day-to-day with a lower body injury, Coach Bruce Boudreau said. After the Capitals' morning skate Tuesday, Neuvirth was icing his left groin and hip area, which has bothered him this season.

Washington would largely right itself after giving up the early goal, making it difficult for the Flyers to get set up in the offensive zone, but the Capitals continued to struggle when it came to finishing chances. In the first period, the Capitals had more shots blocked (eight) than on net (six) while another five attempts missed the net completely.

They wouldn't have quite so many shots fail to reach the target in the second period, but for the most part the middle stanza was dominated by the Flyers, who added to their lead when Claude Giroux knocked his own rebound past Varlamov, who entered the contest at the start of second and finished with 20 saves.

"We have to find a way to wake up," Nicklas Backstrom said. "We can't let teams have a 2-0 lead. We did it last game and we were lucky this game. I think we're lucky we got one point. . . . We can't really work like this, every game doing a comeback."

At the start of the third Washington showed the signs of a team energized by its desperation to get back in a contest. The Capitals started to spark an up-and-down game fueled by their willingness to chase after pucks dumped in the corner. With just more than 12 minutes remaining in regulation collapsing around the net allowed Mike Knuble to knock the puck, which bounced off the post after a shot by Marcus Johansson, past Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to make it 2-1.

Forty seconds later it was Ovechkin who fished the loose puck out of the pile of limbs in the crease and shot it into the yawning cage to knot the game at 2.

It was the second consecutive game the Capitals scored a pair of goals in 45 seconds or less.

Both tallies were scored from within five feet of the goal mouth, which is precisely the type of offensive firepower Washington is looking for. But the Capitals' most pressing issue is doing that for an entire game.

"I think we play again third period, like first 15 minutes, how we have to play all three periods," Ovechkin said. "Everybody understand if we get a puck deep and we take pressure off our D, not one man, two men. We got to play like that. That's how we score two goals, we give them pressure and go to the net and find the rebounds."

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