Caps survive Flyers in shootout

Caps survive Flyers in shootout
March 23, 2011, 2:31 am
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 10:31 p.m.

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By Kevin Kurz
CSNwashington.com

PHILADELPHIA One of the most hyped games of the season was also one of the most exciting.

The Washington Capitals saw an early three-goal lead evaporate into a one-goal deficit in the third period, before a late score by Marcus Johansson tied the game near the end of regulation. Neither team scored in the overtime, and the Capitals converted on all three of their shootout opportunities to pick up the extra point in the standings and claim a 5-4 victory.

The game ran the gamut of emotions. An optimist would say that the Capitals were able to pull out the two points despite blowing a huge lead, while the pessimist would point to the fact that Washington was badly outplayed for large stretches of the game.

Bruce Boudreau made it clear that hes a glass-half-full guy.

I think the important part from our standpoint is that a team scores four goals and comes back and gets the lead, and you have the character that doesnt quit, said the Capitals coach.

Washington, which clinched a playoff spot with the victory, remains one point behind Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead with 96. The Flyers have two games in hand.

Mike Knuble, who had a goal and two assists, said that the team isnt as focused on capturing the top seed in the East as much as it is just continuing its recent run of success. The Capitals won for the 11th time in their last 12 games.

The first seed will be tough to achieve; they have a couple games in hand. But I dont think were worried about that, so much, he said. We want to continue playing well. We want to keep that going, and keep the positive aspects of our game going in that direction.

Things looked good early for the Capitals, who were playing for the first time this season without captain Alex Ovechkin, who sat out with an undisclosed injury. They took advantage of some shaky goaltending from Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky to jump out to a 3-0 lead.

Nicklas Backstrom lifted a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that handcuffed Bobrovsky, deflecting in off of the goaltenders arm at 7:52 of the first period. Later, Bobrovsky got caught looking the wrong way as Jason Chimera found Knuble from behind the net, and the former Flyers forward flicked in his 20th goal of the season to make it 2-0 with just over two minutes left.

A power play goal from Dennis Wideman early in the second, that should have been stopped, chased Bobrovsky in favor of Brian Boucher.

Thats precisely when things started going south for Washington, as the Flyers controlled play for the majority of the second and third periods in climbing back into the game and eventually pulling ahead.

The goaltender change really sparked them, and they came on the rest of the second and third, said Knuble.

Kris Versteeg got a fortunate bounce when he tried to find a streaking Andreas Nodl charging the net, but the puck deflected in off of Widemans skate at 8:05 of the second to put Philadelphia on the board.

It looked like Washington was going to survive the continuing onslaught, despite being badly outplayed in the middle frame. But the defense lost track of Claude Giroux with less than a minute to go, and Philadelphias leading scorer rifled in an easy one-timer on a good fake shot-then-pass by Andreas Nodl with 34 seconds remaining.

Nodl tied it after a bad giveaway by Jeff Schultz squirted out in front of the net, and he flipped it past Michal Neuvirth midway through the third.

We turned the puck over too much. Thats a thing we have to work on, said Backstrom.

The Flyers kept up the pressure and took their first lead of the game when Danny Briere deflected in a point shot by Kimmo Timonen with 5:45 to go in regulation. The frantic, sellout crowd, which had been raining boos on the home team earlier in the game, was suddenly erupting.

Johanssons goal at 16:41, though, re-tied the game for Washington when his shot got through Boucher.

All of a sudden, it was anyones game again.

I just saw Knuble got the puck and hes good at creating his own time, and I just found an opening, said Johansson of his goal, which barely squeaked past Boucher. I was ready to shoot and got a great pass.

Matt Hendricks, Backstrom and Alex Semin all converted on their shootout attempts while Neuvirth stopped one of three Flyers attempts.

Despite the enthralling victory, there were still lessons to be learned by what remains the hottest team in hockey.

First and foremost maintain pressure and intensity, no matter the score.

You might get away with that with some teams that dont have the talent theyve got, but throughout their four lines they have guys that come at you, said Chimera. If you sit back, theyre going to take it to you.

It was maybe a good lesson for us to not stop playing, and just think that the team were facing is just going to lay down, because thats not the case at all, said Knuble. If you get them down, you cant take your foot off the accelerator.

NOTES

The 38-year-old Knuble reached the 20-goal plateau for the eighth straight season. Hes playing like a 24-year-old now, said Boudreau. All four games between the Flyers and Capitals this season went past regulation. Each team was 2-0-2. Eric Fehr returned after missing the last two games with a right shoulder injury, but he played less than 10 minutes. The Capitals improved to 26-0-2 when leading after two periods. Philadelphia was without is best defenseman, Chris Pronger, who continues to recover from a broken hand. Hes expected back for the playoffs.