The Caps ventured into the never-friendly Wachovia Center tonight to take on the rival Flyers in a highly-touted Eastern Conference showdown.
The Flyers were minus Riley Cote and Arron Asham as healthy scratches, but their absence certainly didn’t make this game any less physical. Nicklas Backstrom showed he’s not afraid of big bad Chris Pronger by checking his mug into the boards and one of the boys (a big HM high five to ya) crushed Scott Hartnell , he of the flowing orange locks.
Both goalies were tested early on and the Caps went to a power play minutes into the first as a result of a Flyers trip. The Flyers had a successful PK against Ovie and pals while Varly denied Captain Orange, Mike Richards, on a short-handed goal attempt.
At about the 12-minute mark, a Flyer took a major run at Mike Green and Matt Bradley dropped the gloves with enforcer Ian LaPerriere in a brief retaliation. Darell Powe also mugged Mike Green from behind and the Caps went on their second power play of the night. The boys in the Halloween outfits killed that one also and the Caps were 0-2 on the power play. At 13:45, Chris Clark went to the sin bin for goalie interference to give the home team their first power play opportunity and Scottie Hartnell proceeded to plant his derriere in front of the Caps’ crease- his favorite spot. The Caps were successful in denying the Flyers a scoring chance on their power play.
With two minutes left in the period, the Flyers took yet another penalty. Chris Clark took a nice feed from Mike Green on the ensuing power play and took a nice slap shot that was blocked by Ray Emery.
In the second period, Mike Green took a silly cross-checking penalty which led to a Mike Richards power play goal to give the orange and black the lead. But they wouldn’t hold it for long, as Alex Ovechkin tied it up about a minute later assisted by Matt Bradley and Nick Backstrom. The Flyers proceeded to fire up the home crowd with a second goal, courtesy of Kimmo Timonen.
The Capitals second goal was a result of some quick footwork by Nick Backstrom, who hustled the puck up the middle and passed it to Ovechkin. Ovie went top shelf with a beauty of a goal to tie the score at two apiece. Mike Knuble nearly netted a short-handed goal as the Flyers went on a power play after a Milan Jurcina hook.
The Caps took the lead in the second period when Alex Semin schooled Braydon Coburn with some super Sasha stick handling. Needless to say, the Alexes had a fabulous game. The Capitals penalty troubles got the best of them as Brooks Laich went to the box on a questionable interference call. Mike Richards scored on the resulting power play and then beat Semyon Varlamov again a mere 18 seconds later for a home opening hat trick. Matt Carle kicked in four assists on four Flyers goals. After that unfortunate string of events, Varly took a seat on the bench and Jose Theodore took over in the crease.
And just as Hockey Mom shakes her head at the Caps well-trodden path to the penalty box, John Erskine headed off for a holding call. Score at the end of the second: Flyers 4 – Caps 3. The penalty woes continued into the third period as Boyd Kane went off for a hook. The Caps finally got a power play of their own midway through the third and peppered Ray Emery with shots. Finally, a snipe from Alexander Semin (assisted by who else, Ovie and Backstrom) tied it up at 4-4.
Brendan Morrison followed up with a goal that went to review as the officials thought it may have been kicked. But no sir, B-Mo just had a clean hockey stop and the puck went in on its own accord. Caps took the lead 5-4. And shortly after, the Caps took yet another penalty with Boyd Gordon heading off for holding. Theo saved a shot with a kick save but Tom Poti couldn’t clear the Scott Hartnell rebound that tied this game once again at 5-5. Excuse me, HM needed to go get a blood pressure pill – gaahhh!
With about 53 seconds left in the game, the Caps finally got another power play as Alex Semin was tripped on a breakaway. This game was an epic – with lots of shots on goal, a playoff type atmosphere, heavy hitting and a plethora of penalties. And alas, it would go into OT with Washington on the power play with a minute remaining.
OT brought a flurry of action with both teams going end to end. With seconds left in overtime, the birthday boy himself, Danny Briere (don’t say I didn’t warn you about that shifty guy), scored to win the game. The Caps defensemen floundered in front of the goal and could not clear the puck out.
Final score: Flyers 6 – Caps 5.
So we saw some glorious goals by the top line in the league but we also saw some glaring defensive errors and way, way too many penalties. And Ovie was not stymied by Chris Pronger, despite all the hype.
Up next, the New York Rangers visit the Phone Booth on Thursday. HM will be in the house for all the fun and games…