WASHINGTON - Jeff Carter picked the perfect time to end his longest drought without a goal this season.

Midway through the final period, Carter knocked in a rebound of a Joffrey Lupul shot to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead and pave the way for a 4-2 comeback win over the Washington Capitals tonight at the Verizon Center.

The Flyers, who overcame a 2-0 deficit, erupted for three goals in a 3 minute, 19-second span of the third period to stun the Caps, who had been 24-5-1 at home and 12-1-3 against Atlantic Division teams.

Scott Hartnell tied it at 2-2 when he took a cross from Lupul and scored with 10:49 to play in the third period.

Just 1:25 later, Carter ended a five-game goal-less streak with his 35th goal.

With 7:30 remaining, Arron Asham skated around three defenders and scored to give the Flyers a 4-2 cushion.

The Flyers are 2-0-1 against the powerful Caps, the team they defeated in an epic seven-game playoff series last season.

Not to say that the Flyers' power play has struggled lately, but . . .

In recent games, the Flyers have been more dangerous shorthanded than with an extra skater.

The power-play woes continued tonight until Claude Giroux converted a slick feed from Mike Richards to bring the Flyers within 2-1 with 10:38 left in the second period.

Before then, the Flyers' power play was 5 for 53 in the last 12-plus games - and 1 for 20 in the last five-plus games. (Richards had scored a shorthanded goal in each of the previous three contests.)

The Flyers, missing the presence of defenseman Kimmo Timonen (flu) at the point, allowed four shorthanded breakaways in the first two periods. Antero Niittymaki made saves on two of them, one shot hit the post, and another was fired wide.

The Flyers put together their first power-play flurry in the final seconds of the first period, but Richards' shot hit the left post and Jose Theodore made a big save on Hartnell in front.

Less than two minutes into the game, Alexander Ovechkin made a pretty pass to Nicklas Backstrom, who scored on a backhander from the slot. The goal came four seconds after an interference penalty on Scottie Upshall.

The Caps increased the lead to 2-0 when Ovechkin intercepted Carter's clearing pass and scored his league-high 44th goal on a quick shot from the slot with 15:41 left in the second period.

Carter has been bothered by the flu lately. The Flyers have a 20-2-6 record when he has scored a goal; they are 12-15-3 when he has not.

To try to jump-start Carter's line, coach John Stevens flip-flopped two of his wingers. Upshall went on Carter's line, which also includes the kinetic Hartnell. Lupul, normally the right winger on Carter's line, was placed with Giroux and Darroll Powe.

Sparked by Giroux's goal, the Flyers had several good scoring chances but could not score the equalizer in the second half of the second period. They made up for it in the third.