PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Ovechkin had been looking to bust out after a slow start. He did it by picking on a team he's traditionally had success against.
Washington's captain, who entered the game with just one goal in five games, scored twice and the Capitals blew open a one-goal game with three scores in a 2:25 span early in the third period as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Mathieu Perreault had a goal and an assist, and free-agent signees Roman Hamrlik and Joel Ward had their first goals for the Capitals, who improved to 6-0-0 -- the best start in franchise history. Tomas Vokoun stopped 40 of 42 shots to win his fifth straight game.
Claude Giroux scored in the first period and Sean Couturier in the final minute of the third scored for the Flyers, who lost for the first time in regulation (4-1-1). Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped just 23 of 28 shots.
Ovechkin now has 22 goals and 37 points in 23 regular-season games against the Flyers. More important, he seemed to look more like the player fans and teammates are used to seeing fill the net.
"It's always nice to score goals," Ovechkin said. "I had a couple chances the last couple games but I didn't score. Finally it goes in. I'm kind of happy for me."
So was everyone else in a white jersey.
"He played with a lot more energy than he has been," said linemate Nicklas Backstrom, who assisted on both goals. "I think the game against Florida (a 3-0 win on Tuesday), he was really good, too, he was working hard. Tonight, too.
"He's the leader on our team. If he does all that kind of stuff, obviously everybody else is going to follow."
Ovechkin's second goal came in the middle of the game-deciding span early in the third.
"I think we lost our composure there at the start of the third period for three, four, five minutes maybe," Flyers forward Danny Briere said, "and they kind of took control."
Just 2:23 into the period, Hamrlik's shot from the left point deflected off Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja and got past Bryzgalov. Just 1:31 later, with Philadelphia captain Chris Pronger in the penalty box, Ovechkin stepped out to the edge of the right circle, and with the Flyers' Maxime Talbot hanging all over him, one-timed a Backstrom pass past Bryzgalov at 3:54. It was his first two-goal game since March 9, 2011, against the Oilers.
"He's not going to go through the season with one goal, one deflection," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "At some point he's going to score some goals -- it's Alex Ovechkin."
Just 54 seconds after Ovechkin's goal, Ward fought off Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen for position in front of Bryzgalov and tipped Jeff Schultz's pass into the net to make it 5-1.
Those are the kind of goals Boudreau is hoping to see from his team.
"We like those (ugly) goals," he said. "We like the pretty ones, too, as long as they are going in. I know we talked last game we didn't get any rebound goals, and we talked about going to the net and when you do good things usually happen. Tonight, Ovechkin got a goal going to the net, Perreault got a goal going to the net, and I think Hammer's goal we had everyone converging to the net, so it's all good things."
All those good things for the Caps left Flyers coach Peter Laviolette frustrated.
"We went to the box too much, that's obvious, and there were some tough breaks out there as well tonight," he said. "When you put four goals in your own net off a redirect and three off your own stick … so I'm not making excuses -- it's a loss. You look up halfway through the third period and it's 5-1 in your building, it's certainly not what you're looking for."
It was a one-goal game through two periods, thanks to another Capitals scoring spurt. Giroux scored his fifth goal of the season -- he has a goal in five of the team's first six games -- on a breakaway created by Wayne Simmonds poking the puck away from Alexander Semin to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead, but the Caps responded with a pair of goals in a 68-second span in the final 1:20 of the opening period.
A bad pass by Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell went right to Perreault. He skated into the right circle and fired a shot into traffic that went off the stick of Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn and trickled inside the post at 18:40.
Just 68 seconds later, Backstrom bounced off a Giroux check in the right corner and walked in front with the puck. He tried to stuff it through Bryzgalov, but instead it went right to Ovechkin, who scored with 11.8 seconds left in the period.
The Flyers carried the play in the second, but anytime they got close, Vokoun denied them. The 42 shots he faced tonight were a season high, but just the second time this season he's faced more than 34.
"Sometimes it's an easier way to play," said Vokoun, who is no strange to seeing lots of rubber -- he faced nearly 32 shots per game the last four seasons with the Panthers. "Especially with this team, I'm going to be faced with different kinds of games. Another learning experience for me, to learn how to deal with some periods you get one, two shots, some you get 18. Whatever comes my way, my job is to stop the pucks. That's what I worry about."
"When they pushed, even in the second there, when they had a lot of zone time, I think our (defensive) zone coverage was pretty good," Boudreau said. "We weren't letting a lot through, and when they were, Tomas was there."
The game also marked only the second time Washington has played a game decided by more than one goal, so there was a bit of a relaxed feeling after the early run in the third.
"I'm not used to it yet," Boudreau said of the four-goal cushion. "It was good. And it was totally unexpected against this team. But when you get a couple deflection goals like that, and the goalie's been playing like he's been playing since the first game he played, it's pretty good."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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