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Caps pay back Flyers with 2-1 win

by Brian Compton
Entering Tuesday game at the Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals felt as if they owed the Philadelphia Flyers some payback following the 7-1 beating they received in the City of Brotherly Love on Dec. 20.

While the Caps didn't return the embarrassment, they got the two points they wanted.

Jose Theodore made 33 saves through overtime, then went 3-for-3 in the shootout as Washington earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory against the Flyers in front of a capacity crowd. The Caps -- who lost to Philadelphia in the opening round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- have won seven in a row and 12 of their last 13 games.

''Last time they beat us bad,'' Theodore said. ''We owed them a game.''

Theodore put forth another solid effort and continued to reclaim his position as Washington's No. 1 goaltender. His performance helped the Caps improve to 18-1-1 on home ice this season.

"I was seeing the puck well," Theodore said. "We played a really solid game in front of me. I was able to challenge. When I see those pucks, usually I can challenge and make the save."

Nicklas Backstrom scored the Caps' only goal in regulation, a power-play tally just 2:10 into the game. After Luca Sbisa was called for holding, Backstrom took a pass from Alexander Semin that he allowed to bounce off his body before swatting it past Martin Biron for his 12th goal of the season.

The score remained that way through the remainder of the first period, mainly due to some stellar defensive play by the Capitals. Washington managed to kill off a two-man advantage about midway through, when Boyd Gordon and Alex Ovechkin were handed penalties just 90 seconds apart. Theodore stopped all 12 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

"Individual offensive play is going to win you some games, but defense is going to win you championships," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think that's what we're striving for."

Philadelphia finally tied the game 23 seconds into the third period on a power-play goal by Braydon Coburn. Just five seconds after Michael Nylander went off for hooking, Coburn took a pass from Kimmo Timonen and fired a shot from the point that found its way through a crowd and past Theodore to make it 1-1. It was Coburn's fifth goal of the season.

Flyers coach John Stevens was pleased to see his team find a way to earn a point in the standings despite the fact that it was finishing up a six-game road trip (2-2-2).

''We talked to the team about it and we all agreed that they were feeling sluggish,'' Stevens said. ''We've had some guys injured and some of our veteran guys have stepped up and played great.'' 

Theodore stepped up in the shootout, denying Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Viktor Kozlov scored the lone goal of the breakaway competition, which game in Round 1.

''It's not like we came in here and outshot them 43-14 and dominated them,'' Boudreau said. ''We won in a shootout. It's basically a tie game for 65 minutes. We feel that every game against Philly is going to be a battle.''

Such is the case in any rivalry -- especially one that has been renewed over the past 12 months.

''Enough has been said about the 'war' between Philly and Washington, and we felt this was a business day,'' Boudreau said. ''We wanted to be like machines and go out there and do what we're capable of doing. It's was a 50-50 game right to the end, and that's what happens when two real good teams play.''


The Capitals have been so good as of late that Tuesday marked their sixth straight sellout at the Verizon Center. At this point last season, Washington had sold out its building only once.

''They're starting to get some fans now, I guess,'' Carter said. ''We can't buy all the tickets.''

The teams will meet again on Feb. 24 in Washington. If Tuesday night was any indication, fans can expect another thrilling atmosphere.

"It was a typical playoff game … really tight defensively, a couple of good chances," Theodore said. "I think Marty, on the other side, made some good saves. But we didn't panic. We played really well."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.    

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