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Postgame Notebook, 1-13-08

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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The One that Got Away – In Washington’s previous game this week, the well-rested Caps were able to take advantage of a weary Colorado team that was playing its second game in as many days and its third in four nights. Philadelphia came into the District on Sunday in the exact same state, having suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Bruins on Saturday and playing its third game in four days.

The Caps were again well rested, playing just their second game in eight days and their first since Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Avalanche.

Washington started as well as it could have wanted, getting a 1-0 lead on its second shot of the game, an Alexander Semin laser just 1:22 into the first period. But Philly scored the next four goals, forcing the Caps to play catch-up. The Caps came back with three, but were never able to draw even because Philly’s Mike Richards netted his 20th of the season to extend the Flyers’ lead to 5-3 at 8:23 of the third.

After sitting and watching other Eastern Conference teams pick up points this week – and watching Carolina sit still at 48 when the Canes coughed up a 4-2 third period lead to Colorado on Saturday night – the Caps’ inability to pick up a point or two on Sunday is all the more frustrating.

“They’re not going to give you so many opportunities,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Eventually Carolina is going to start winning a lot of games and teams in the division that are losing are going to start winning. We have to make hay. This is a big week for us.”

When it was all said and done, the Caps missed a chance to pull even with Florida for third in the Southeast and a shot at getting within five points of the front-running Carolina Hurricanes. Washington has three more home games this week: Tuesday vs. Ottawa, Thursday vs. Edmonton and Saturday vs. Florida.

Falling to Philly – The Caps came into Sunday’s game within two games of “break-even” hockey at 18-20-5. The last time Washington was within two games of breaking even in games to standings points was on Nov. 2 when the Flyers last visited the District. The Flyers saddled the Caps with a 3-2 loss that night to drop Washington to 5-8. Sunday’s loss puts the Caps at 18-21-5.

Milestone for Michael – Michael Nylander’s goal on Sunday was the 200th of his NHL career. Nylander’s first NHL goal came as a member of the Hartford Whalers on Nov. 27, 1992 in a 5-4 loss to the Boston Bruins. Nylander victimized Bruins’ netminder Reggie Lemelin that night.

No Afternoon Delight –
The Caps’ perfect record in matinee matches went by the wayside on Sunday. Washington is now 4-1 in afternoon contests this season.

Three Back –
The Caps got three injured players back in the lineup on Sunday. Goaltender Brent Johnson returned after missing five games with a sprained knee. He came on in relief of starter Olie Kolzig, marking the first time Kolzig had been pulled from the Washington nets in exactly one year. The Caps pulled Kolzig on this date in 2007 after he allowed five goals on 41 shots in the first two periods of a 7-3 loss to the Panthers in Florida.

Defenseman Tom Poti returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper body injury. He skated 20:32 on the day and was minus-3 on the day.

Right wing Chris Clark came back after missing 18 games with a groin injury. On Clark’s first shift of the game, he hit Philly’s Daniel Briere behind the Flyers net, churning up a loose puck in the process. Clark got the puck to Nylander who fed Semin for the goal that gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

Clark played 4:11 in the first period and 4:00 in the second, but left the game after one shift in the third. The Caps captain said he “re-tweaked” his groin injury on his final shift of the first period and stayed out of action as a precautionary measure. How he feels at Washington’s Monday practice will likely determine whether he plays when the Caps host Ottawa on Tuesday.

Ovie vs. Philly – With a goal and an assist on Sunday against the Flyers, Alex Ovechkin extended his scoring streak against Philadelphia to 10 straight games. In 11 career contests against the Flyers, Ovechkin now has 11 goals and 20 points.

Power Surge – With Mike Knuble’s power play goal in the first period, Philly has now scored at least one power play goal in 15 of its last 17 games. The Flyers are 24-for-94 (25.5%) with the extra man during that span.

Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps goaltender Mike “The Popcorn Kid” Palmateer, born on this day in 1954. Must be something about this day that produces goaltenders, because Palmateer shares his birthday with former NHL goaltenders Cesare Maniago (1939) and Kelly Hrudey (1961) as well as Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (1973).

On This Day in NHL History – Former Caps assistant coach and Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle scored his first NHL goal on this date in 1978. As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carlyle scored against the Barons in a game at Cleveland.

Among Carlyle’s teammates on that 1977-78 Maple Leafs team: current Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau, former Capitals head coach Ron Wilson and the aforementioned Palmateer.

Down on the Farm –
Hershey hosts Hartford at Giant Center in a 5 p.m. game tonight, the third of three games in three nights for the Bears this weekend. With Brent Johnson in goal on Friday night, the Bears dropped a 3-1 decision to the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Last night, Hershey downed Lake Erie 6-4.

Andrew Gordon notched his first pro hat trick and Sami Lepisto scored his first goal as a North American pro in the win over Lake Erie.

The Bears come into Sunday’s action with 46 points, tied with Albany for third place in the AHL’s East Division standings. Hershey trails Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by two points.

The ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays finish up a seven-game road trip with their third game in as many days against the Texas Wildcatters. The Rays and Texas split the first two games, with South Carolina winning 4-3 in overtime on Friday and the Wildcatters rebounding to take a 4-2 decision on Saturday.

The Rays are 2-4 on the trip to date. Going into Sunday afternoon’s game with a 21-12-1-1 mark on the season, South Carolina stands fourth in the ECHL’s South Division standings, two points behind second place Gwinnett and a single point behind third place Augusta.

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