Saturday, April 19, 2008

From Which Dreams Are Made

Capitals Rise from the Ashes, Defeat Flyers in Electrifying Seventh Game

Washington (peerlesspress), April 23. The Washington Capitals completed a remarkable comeback from a three games to one deficit in their first round playoff match with the Philadelphia Flyers, beating the Flyers 5-4 in the third overtime period last night in Washington.

The Capitals became the 21st team in NHL history to rebound from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. This is the second time they have accomplished the feat, the other also at the expense of the Flyers in 1988.

The game winning goal was scored on a penalty shot in the third overtime, awarded when defenseman Derian Hatcher was whistled for closing his hand on the puck in the goaltender’s crease. Alex Ovechkin, whose hat trick in Game 6 in Philadelphia set the stage for a thrilling conclusion to this series, was picked by Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau to take the potential game-winning shot.

The deafening roar of a capacity crowd on its feet spurring Ovechkin on, the MVP-favorite skated in on Flyer goaltender Martin Biron, and using an old trick of kicking his leg up in the air before shooting, he snapped a forehand over Biron’s glove, knocking the water bottle off of the netting and the Capitals into the second round of the playoffs. The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.

Ovechkin’s heroics capped a furious comeback by the Capitals that eerily resembled the comeback they fashioned when the defeated the Flyers by the same score in Game 7 of their first round series in 1988. The Flyers raced to a 3-0 first period lead on goals by Daniel Briere, R.J. Umberger, and Jeff Carter, turning the Verizon Center crowd quiet. However, the Capitals found life when Steve Eminger found the back of the net early in the second period on a drive from the left point.

Just over a minute later, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom worked a give-and-go play to pull the Caps within a goal, Semin converting the return pass from Backstrom on a backhand deke past Biron.

The Caps tied the game with less than a minute remaining in the second period on a power play. Sergei Fedorov, working from the half wall, worked the puck to Backstrom at the Flyer goal line. Backstrom wasted no time in feeding the puck to Ovechkin at the left wing circle hash marks, from where Ovechkin one-timed the puck past Biron’s blocker.

The Flyers regained the lead at the 10:46 mark of the third period on a goal-mouth scramble. Mike Knuble recreated his game-four winning goal by batting home a loose puck over Capitals’ goaltender Cristobal Huet’s left pad.

The Capitals tied the game for the final time with less than three minutes in regulation as Ovechkin raced down the left wing, drawing two Flyers to him as he entered the offensive zone. His way blocked, Ovechkin pulled up and found Viktor Kozlov coming late into the zone. Kozlov stepped around defenseman Braydon Coburn and fired a wrist shot through Biron that had the Capitals leaping off their bench and the Verizon Center fans in a frenzy.

The overtime periods were not without their moments. Daniel Briere had a breakaway late in the first overtime, but whiffed on a shot attempt. Mike Richards had an open net in the second overtime after a drive was kicked aside by Huet, but he misfired when he shot the puck off the heel of his stick, breaking his stick in the process.

In the third overtime, the Capitals mounted a serious threat when the Flyers were unable to clear the puck from the defensive zone. Mike Green twice intercepted clearing attempts to keep the offensive pressure on. Shaone Morrisonn then knocked down a clearing attempt, feeding the puck along the boards to Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov took a step in the direction of the Flyers’ net, then snapped a pass across to Ovechkin in the left wing circle. Ovechkin’s shot hit Biron in the mask and popped into the air. When the puck fell into the crease, a mad scramble ensued, and Derian Hatcher found himself within arm’s reach of the puck and Fedorov about to pounce. Hatcher reached out and pulled the puck under his body, upon which referee Mike Hasenfratz pointed to center ice, signaling a penalty shot.

After a few moments of suspense, Ovechkin skated slowly to center ice, alone in his thoughts as the crowd noise shook the building. Ovechkin at first could not hear the referee blowing his whistle to give Ovechkin the signal to take the shot, and the referee had to skate over to Ovechkin to send him on his way. With a short hop, Ovechkin got underway, skating slowly in on Biron, who had come almost to the hash marks to defend the rush. Ovechkin had the puck on his forehand and offered a leg kick to try to distract Biron. The goalie did not flinch, but then Ovechkin closed his stick to suggest he was going to his backhand. Biron edged ever so slightly to his right to defend the move, and it was all the opening Ovechkin needed. He snapped the puck over Biron’s glove with a forehand to send the water bottle flying, and the comeback was complete.

The Capitals poured off the bench to greet Ovechkin, and Biron skated dejectedly to his bench, having been the losing goaltender in each of the last three games of this series.

The Capitals, given up for dead after a heartbreaking double overtime loss to the Flyers in game four of this series, put themselves in a position to take this series with a 5-3 win in game five, in Washington, and then a wild 7-5 win in Philadelphia in which Ovechkin registered his first six-point game in the NHL (hat trick, three assists).

Notes…Ovechkin – held to a single goal in the first four games of the series – scored six goals, including the penalty shot game and series winner, in the last three games of the series. Martin Biron, who allowed only 11 goals on 111 shots in the first four games of the series, allowed 16 goals on 105 shots in games five, six, and seven. Steve Eminger scored a goal for the fourth consecutive game. This is the Capitals’ first playoff series victory since defeating the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference final in 1998.

photo: Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post


Anonymous said...

dream inconsistencies?

"The Flyers raced to a 3-0 first period lead on goals by Daniel Briere, R.J. Umberger, and Jeff Carter, turning the Verizon Center crowd quiet.


Daniel Briere was held without a point for the second consecutive game."

The Peerless said...

picky, picky picky ;)

Josh said...

You can count Knuble out for this....YES!!!!