On Thanksgiving Day, the Washington Capitals
were at the bottom of the Southeast Division. One coaching change, 11 weeks and a lot of victories later, they’re in first place.
scored his League-leading 46th goal in the third period — shortly after Matt Bradley
and Viktor Kozlov
had found the back of the net 64 seconds apart — as the Caps earned not only a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers
at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night, but sole possession of first in the Southeast Division as well.
With the victory, Washington improved to 20-10-4 since Bruce Boudreau
replaced Glen Hanlon
behind the bench on Nov. 22. The Caps moved a point ahead of Carolina and Atlanta and two in front of Florida.
''We believe we're a real good team now,'' Boudreau said. ''Individually, I think they believe they're a hard team to beat and that when they go on the ice they can win any game they play.''
Former Flyers goalie Ron Hextall
was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame during the first intermission, but the emotion displayed during the ceremony wasn’t enough to prevent Philadelphia from losing in regulation for only the fourth time in 19 games.
Current Flyers goalie Martin Biron
struggled for the first time in a while, as he allowed four goals on 27 shots. Biron — who allowed three of those tallies in the third period — lost for the first time since Jan. 4 to the New Jersey Devils
. He entered the night with a 5-0 record in his last seven appearances.
After a scoreless first period, Brooks Laich
gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 2:31 of the second ( 700K
), when he took a pass from Mike Green
and put a backhander over Biron for his ninth goal of the season.
tied the game with his 21st goal of the season with 3:39 remaining in the period ( 700K
). With the Flyers on a power play, Knuble took a pretty feed from Danny Briere
and ripped a shot past Olaf Kolzig
to make it 1-1. It was Knuble’s fifth goal in his last three games.
But the Caps took control early in a wild third period.
Bradley restored Washington’s lead at 2:01 ( 700K
) when he redirected Green’s blast from the point past Biron for his first goal in 17 games. Kozlov quickly made it a 3-1 game when he ripped a shot from the left circle past Biron ( 700K
''I took a step forward and he put it off the pipe and in,'' Biron said of Kozlov's tally. ''It was a pretty good shot.''
Ovechkin put the Caps up by three at 7:45 ( 700K
) when he put his own rebound past Biron. He matched his total of 46 goals last season and is only six away from equaling his rookie-year total of 52. Ovechkin has 12 goals in 12 career games against Philadelphia.
The Flyers quickly flipped the switch and got back into the game. After Scottie Hartnell had a goal disallowed at 9:53, Sami Kapanen
cut the deficit in half with 6:10 to play ( 700K
). Randy Jones
then got Philadelphia within one when he roofed a pretty backhander over Kolzig with 54 seconds to go ( 700K
“It was obviously too late,” Kapanen said of the Flyers’ rally. “I think these are the points we’re going to be badly missing later on in the season. I think these are the points we needed to have tonight.”
Flyers coach John Stevens
was disappointed to see his team wait so long before turning on the pressure. Both teams were playing their second game in as many nights.
“We got down and almost had a sense of urgency,” Stevens said. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on in either end for quite a while there. All of a sudden, we had a lapse in the third period where, before you knew it, the puck was in our net a few times. It’s a little concerning that we gave up three goals in the third period like that.”
Three goals that put the Capitals in first place.
Washington has come a long way since beating the Flyers in overtime in Boudreau’s first game as coach back on Nov. 23.
''At Thanksgiving, we were here and people had written us off,'' Kolzig said. ''We had coach come in with a new philosophy, and the guys seemed to respond real well. We just kept going.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.