WASHINGTON - The Flyers blew a 2-0 lead, failed to connect on a penalty shot and dropped a 4-2 decision to the Washington Capitals tonight at the Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin, who missed the previous two games with the flu, snapped a 2-2 tie with 14 minutes, 36 seconds left to spark the Caps.

Goalie Jose Theodore made a pad save on Darroll Powe's penalty shot with 13:13 remaining, protecting a 3-2 lead. That made the Flyers 18 for 42 in regular-season penalty shots in the franchise's history.

Coincidentally, the Flyers' last penalty-shot goal was scored by Powe, who connected April 4 in Ottawa.

Alex Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game, an empty-netter with 46 seconds left, to seal it.

Jeff Carter had several chances but failed to score for the sixth straight game - his longest drought in two seasons. He went five games without scoring twice last season, when he finished with 46 goals.

With the Flyers' fathers in the crowd as part of a bonding trip with their sons, Semin skated into the left circle, and as he was closely defended by Kimmo Timonen, sent a shot into the upper left corner to give the Caps a late 3-2 lead. The shot appeared to deflect off Timonen.

With Simon Gagne expected to miss several weeks because of two small hernias, the Flyers are going to need "everybody to step up and contribute," coach John Stevens said before tonight's game.

Scott Hartnell and Braydon Coburn have been mired in early-season slumps, but both did their part, scoring second-period power-play goals to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

On an odd-man rush, Hartnell made it 1-0 by redirecting a Mike Richards cross with 16:54 left in the second.

"[Claude] Giroux kicked it to the outside and did a great job of driving to the middle," Hartnell said. "We practice that every day. Richie put it right on my tape."

With 5:31 remaining in the second, Coburn took a pass from Timonen and rifled a one-timer past Theodore from just outside the right circle. Rookie James van Riemsdyk screened Theodore in front.

But the Flyers continued their habit of allowing goals late in a period. Washington, which had been stymied by goalie Ray Emery on a five-on-three that lasted for 1:41 earlier in the period, scored two goals in the final 3:52 of the second period to tie the score at 2.

About two minutes after Coburn's first goal of the season, Ovechkin (who else?) scored from out front, trimming the margin to 2-1. Ovechkin has scored 18 goals in 18 career games against the Flyers.

With the Flyers' Mika Pyorala in the penalty box for holding, Nicklas Backstrom scored from the left circle with 1:48 left in the middle period, sending a shot through Emery's legs. The shot may have deflected off Timonen.

Like Ovechkin, Backstrom is a Flyers-killer. The goal gave him 14 points in 10 career games against the Flyers.

The scoreless first period was crisply played by both teams. The Caps outshot the Flyers, 11-10, but neither goalie was forced to make many difficult saves.

Washington, which dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the Flyers on Oct. 6, got the only power play of the opening period when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen went to the penalty box for cross-checking with 2:09 left.

But defensemen Chris Pronger and Timonen, along with rotating forwards Giroux, Richards, Carter and Darroll Powe, did an admirable job of keeping the Caps away from the net. Washington did not get a shot during the power play.

The Flyers neutralized Ovechkin in the first period, limiting him to one shot.