Ovechkin alone in front for game-winner as Capitals edge Flyers
IT WAS DEFINITELY a night for taking the good with the bad. Danny Briere returned to the Flyers' lineup, finished the game and felt good after. But the Flyers lost, 2-1, to the Washington Capitals in the Wachovia Center on a night of pretty good hockey, strange calls and non-calls, and a key turnover with the most dangerous guy in the league standing alone in front of Marty Biron.
IT WAS DEFINITELY a night for taking the good with the bad.
Danny Briere returned to the Flyers' lineup, finished the game and felt good after. But the Flyers lost, 2-1, to the Washington Capitals in the Wachovia Center on a night of pretty good hockey, strange calls and non-calls, and a key turnover with the most dangerous guy in the league standing alone in front of Marty Biron.
Late in the second period, Darroll Powe thought he had Matt Carle open behind the Flyers' net, but Caps winger Alexander Semin saw him looking, read the play and jumped on the errant pass.
Semin slipped the puck to Alex Ovechkin, who took one of his instant shots and caught the net under the crossbar, breaking a 1-1 tie with what ended up being the game-winner. It was Ovechkin's league-leading 48th goal.
"It's a bad bounce for us and he's sitting in the slot and before I know it, it's sitting in the net," said Biron, who played well to match a good game by the Capitals' superstar Russian, who also set up Washington's first goal and, by the way, had eight total shots on net.
"You know, he scored 50-plus goals a year, he's not going to put it in my belly," the Flyers goalie said. "He's going to put it under the bar and that's what he did."
Aside from the Ovechkin show, the two teams played a close, hard-fought game, and ratcheted up the emotion in the third period. But there were a couple of questionable calls to go with it, all in the last period.
Washington had a goal waved off when Michael Nylander knocked Biron over in the crease, but it was not ruled interference.
Then the Flyers had a goal negated when Mike Knuble knocked Jeff Schultz down in front during a power play, just seconds before a Kimmo Timonen shot went flying past Jose Theodore from the point.
But the worst call, and most difficult to understand, came while the Flyers were killing the Knuble penalty and Simon Gagne got in on a breakaway.
With Mike Green repeatedly hooking Gagne on the side from behind, Ovechkin dove in front and took Gagne down. But again, there was no call.
"The way Ovechkin reacted, he went right to the penalty box after so I imagined he definitely thought it was a penalty on this one, but the referee saw it different," Gagne said.
"On my side of the story, I thought I was going on a breakaway by myself and I felt a blade just try to hook me from behind and slow me down just a little bit, enough to give [Ovechkin] time to get me after that, so I don't know, tough call. But just by Ovechkin's reaction, going to the penalty box, it means a lot."
It also meant a lot that the Flyers had four power plays in the game and couldn't score, while the Capitals scored on their first man advantage.
Early in the first period, Brooks Laich went to the front of the net, put his stick down and waited for Ovechkin to nail the tape with a laser pass that Laich just tipped past Biron for a 1-0 lead.
After scoring two power-play goals Tuesday night against Buffalo, the Flyers couldn't make any count last night.
"I actually thought our power play created," coach John Stevens said. "We had some chances, we had some near-misses and [Gagne] walked in there all alone at the end. We're looking at trying to get the puck to the net. That's something we have to settle down.
"I don't think as many pucks got to the net as were intended and that's something we've got to work on, but I like the fact that we were moving a little quicker and were looking to get it to the net."
Mike Richards struggled with his passes through most of the first 30 minutes, but not when he had Knuble open in front. Richards picked off a dump, passed off to Gagne and got the puck back into the zone.
Cutting toward the net, Richards faked a shot, froze Theodore and snapped a pass over to Knuble for the easy tap-in and a 1-1 game at 11:32 of the second period.
Then came the bad turnover to the wrong guy, and Washington regained the lead, 2-1. Theodore had 35 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth straight road game.
But on the bright side, there was the return of Briere.
"I thought it was pretty good," Briere said. "It was disappointing to end up with a loss on such a good hockey game. But personally I felt really good. I felt a lot better than the past week when I came back for those three games.
"I just felt like I had more power, more jump, I didn't feel like I was lagging behind when I had the chance to jump in the hole. I'm not saying that I'm completely satisfied that I'm 100 percent of where I want to be, but compared to last week, it's a huge jump." *