PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers captain Mike Richards and Washington Capitals superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin played a personal game of anything you can do, I can do better on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
Ovechkin scored a pair of goals and had an assist, while Richards finished with a hat trick in the Flyers' dramatic, 6-5 overtime victory.
Danny Briere, celebrating his 32nd birthday, scored the game winner at 3:45 of overtime. Flyers defenseman Matt Carle set a club record for defensemen and tied an NHL mark for blueliners with four assists in the second period; he's the first NHL defenseman to accomplish the feat since Rob Blake on Jan. 29, 1998. Richards also became the first Flyer to record a hat trick in a home opener.
Alexander Semin had a pair of goals, Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Matt Bradley had two helpers for the Capitals.
Tuesday's battle was just the latest in a long-running rivalry between Richards and Ovechkin that stretches all the way back to the 2005 World Junior Championship in Grand Forks, N.D.
Ovechkin, then the captain for Russia, was accused of taunting the U.S. during a semifinal win and then firing off some inflammatory comments toward Richards' Canada team during a few interviews.
Richards was the captain of that squad -- one that included NHL all-stars like Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter and Ryan Getzlaf. While Richards never publicly acknowledged the remarks, his answer came on the ice as he led a punishing charge that targeted Ovechkin for extra physical play and knocked him out of the game with a shoulder injury in the second period. Canada won the gold medal that night, starting what seems to be a team-wise upper hand over Ovechkin.
"I think those two guys, like when (Sidney) Crosby comes to town, it usually brings out the best in both of them," said Flyers coach John Stevens. "Certainly that was the case tonight."
"Richey seems to step up his game when things are on the line," added Carle. "He showed that tonight."
Ovechkin said he doesn't get overly excited to play against Richards, and Richards said there's nothing personal in their battle.
"He's a guy to get up for," said Richards. "If you're not ready to play, he's going to hurt you."
He certainly put a hurt on the Flyers in the second period Tuesday.
Richards opened the scoring when he one-timed a diagonal slap pass from Carle at 1:37 of the second period. Just 67 seconds later, however, Ovechkin pulled a Bradley pass out of his skates and beat Ray Emery to tie the game.
Kimmo Timonen's goal on a delayed penalty at 4:33 gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, but Ovechkin answered when he tipped a Chris Pronger clearing attempt out to Backstrom, who sent the puck right back to Ovechkin. The star forward walked in alone on Emery and beat him at 7:33.
Semin put the Caps ahead with an early candidate for goal of the year. Steaming in from center ice, he deked around Carter, toe-dragged past Braydon Coburn and beat Emery from in close.
Then it was Richards' turn as he scored twice in 18 seconds to finish his second NHL hat trick. He scored a power-play goal similar to his first off a pass from Carle at 13:49, and then when Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov couldn't control a long shot by Carle, Richards shot the rebound under the crossbar to make it 4-3. The second goal ended Varlamov's night in favor of Jose Theodore.
Semin and Brendan Morrisson scored 1:14 apart in the third to put the Caps back on top, 5-4, but Scott Hartnell pushed a Coburn rebound under Theodore with 4:15 to play to force overtime.
"We came out, battled back in the third, had the lead," said Morrisson. "It's a game that we should seal down and win with that much time left in the game."
Stevens said the mood on the bench never dipped when his team got behind, and that resiliency stood out to him.
"Good teams find ways to win," he said. "We've got lots of things to clean up here, but we've got lots to like about that performance as well."
-- Adam Kimelman, NHL.com