PHILADELPHIA, OCT. 23 -- The Philadelphia Flyers had the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. The past tense is correct, for the Washington Capitals improved their own run of success tonight with a 6-2 victory over the Flyers in front of a sellout crowd of 17,382 at The Spectrum.
There were several points of light and interest that intersected, as the Capitals won the first game of a five-game road trip and extended their winning streak to three games.
The Capitals played without Dino Ciccarelli and Alan May, but came up with enough offense and toughness to end the six-game winning streak of the Flyers and goalie Ken Wregget.
Kevin Hatcher played perhaps his best game of the season, scoring two goals and assisting on a third. Hatcher's second goal was the game-winner and the first of four straight that ended a 2-2 tie.
Soviet defenseman Mikhail Tatarinov played his first game as a Capital. He did not score, but he was even in plus-minus for the night and did not flinch when the Flyers started to get physical.
"For us to start a five-game road trip with a win here, that's certainly the way you want to do it," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said.
"I thought Tatarinov played real well. He moved the puck very well. At times a couple guys looked surprised, like they were not expecting a pass. It looked like he was involved, taking a hit and giving a hit. It's The Specturm and I know he knows what that's all about."
Besides Hatcher, the Capitals scorers were Bob Rouse, Kelly Miller, Peter Zezel and John Druce. Rick Tocchet scored twice for the Flyers, but that was all they got against Mike Liut, who pushed his record to 4-3 as the team squared itself at 5-5.
The Flyers had been on a great run on the ice, while grieving off it. It was just a week ago that Tim Kerr's wife, Kathy, died of an infection several days after the birth of their daughter. Kerr may return next week.
"There's no doubt Tim's going to play hockey," Flyers Coach Paul Holmgren said this morning. "But he's got to look after two kids under the age of 10 months, so there's a few loose ends after this tragic occurrence."
This wasn't the first time the Flyers have mourned as an organization. Barry Ashbee, whose career ended in 1974, was an assistant coach with the team when he died of leukemia in 1977, and goalie Pelle Lindbergh died in a one-car crash in 1985.
"When you lose a player like Pelle, you feel the loss immediately, but it goes away with time," said Holmgren, then an assistant with the Flyers. "But with Timmy's wife, we will always be reminded of it because Tim will be around. Every time you look at him, you will be reminded of it."
The Flyers may have played their best game of the year the night Kathy Kerr died, beating Pittsburgh by 5-1 for the fourth of six straight wins.
"I'm pleased that we've worked hard and played well defensively," Holmgren said. "We've been scoring some goals we don't normally score through hard work."
Holmgren was referring to the four goals by Norman Lacombe, who had none in 33 games last year with the Flyers and Oilers. But tonight the Capitals were hurt only by Tocchet, one of the Flyers' top scorers.
But before that, the Capitals took a 1-0 edge on an odd goal, the first of the year by Rouse. As shots go, this was a Texas Leaguer from the point. It sailed over several shoulders, the last of which was Wregget's, with 14:18 left in the first period.
After the Flyers killed a two-man advantage, Murray Craven (12 assists) sent Tocchet in for a breakaway goal. Tocchet then scored a power-play goal for a 2-1 lead with 1:28 gone in the second period.
But once Hatcher scored shorthanded, the Capitals were gone.
He put Washington ahead with a goal off Gord Murphy's stick. Miller then redirected Tim Bergland's shot. Zezel, a former Flyer, did the same with Hatcher's shot for his fourth power-play goal. Druce then added to the Flyers' misery with his fourth goal in three games.