Flyers 7, Capitals 6

For the first time in seven exhibition games, the Washington Capitals' lineup last night against Philadelphia actually resembled the one that will skate on opening night.

And, after a wild, 7-6 shootout loss at MCI Center, this much is known: the Capitals' crafty forwards are capable of scoring goals in droves, and the team's inexperienced corps of defensemen is capable of permitting them at about the same rate. It's a theme that seems destined to be repeated through the 2005-06 season.

Washington (2-4-1) blew leads of 4-0 and 5-1 as Philadelphia scored five times in the third period, including one with 16.2 seconds remaining, to send the game to overtime. The Capitals lost when Stefan Ruzicka beat goalie Olaf Kolzig in a sudden-death shootout and Andrew Cassels failed to convert at the other end.

"We made some mistakes at the end by pressing a bit," Capitals captain Jeff Halpern said. "When it's 5-1, guys' eyes got a little big. We need to cut down on those mistakes, and we will. There's definitely some things we need to do better, but I was happy with a lot of things as well."

Halpern scored three power-play goals and recorded an assist, Alexander Ovechkin tallied a goal and two assists and Kolzig was spectacular early, turning aside 29 shots in front of another meager crowd, estimated at about 5,000.

Washington's power play accounted for five goals, and its scoring forward lines were impressive. The top combination was centered by Dainius Zubrus, who was flanked by Ovechkin on the left and Halpern on the right. The second was centered by Cassels (who scored his first goal of the preseason in the second period) and had Jeff Friesen (who made his Capitals debut) and Brian Willsie on the wings.

"I'm hoping we can keep scoring like that," said defenseman Jamie Heward, who had a goal and two assists. "We played well except for about a 10-minute span in the third period. We're a young hockey team and we're going to learn from it."

Washington led 3-0 after 20 minutes after goals by Heward, Ovechkin and Halpern.

Heward's goal came one minute into the game when he banged a rebound underneath Flyers goalie Robert Esche. About three minutes later, Ovechkin shoveled a loose puck past Esche on the power play to put the Capitals ahead 2-0. Halpern, who also scored with a man advantage, deflected a slap shot by defenseman Bryan Muir between Esche's pads. Halpern's second goal gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

It didn't stay that way for long, and soon enough Jon Sim (three goals) and Flyers had tied the game.

Halpern tapped in a slap shot from the point to put the Capitals ahead 6-5 with a power-play goal with about four minutes remaining. But Sim sent the game to overtime. Sim has had two hat tricks against the Capitals this preseason.

Giving up four power-play goals "was the whole game, right there," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "They turned it up a bit and we weren't ready to match their intensity in the third period. They came out [in the third] and scored a couple of quick goals and all of a sudden you had to get back in the game and we couldn't find ourselves."

Capitals Notes: Right wing Petr Sykora was on the ice with his new teammates yesterday morning during the pregame skate at Piney Orchard. Sykora, who was signed a one-year contract in August, arrived from Czech Republic on Friday. A potential first-line winger, he will play tonight against the Penguins.

The Flyers' Jon Sim beats Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig (29 saves) to tie the game in the third period. Philadelphia scored five times in the third period.Jeff Halpern, who had three goals and an assist, chases after a loose puck.