They had already rallied from a two-goal deficit, but with their backs to the wall for a second straight game, the Washington Capitals
needed something more in order to once again stave off elimination.
That’s when Alex Ovechkin
came to life and took over the third period. Held without a goal since recording the winner late in Game 1, he put the Capitals ahead for the first time 2:46 into the third and went on to add a power-play goal in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers
that sends the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to a seventh game Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
Accustomed to doing things the hard way after rising all the way from 14th in the East at midseason to win the Southeast Division, the Capitals are now one win away from completing a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
“It’s not over yet,” Ovechkin said following the first multi-goal game of his playoff career.
“(Tuesday is) the biggest game in our career, I think, and we don’t want to stop. We just want to continue what we’re doing.”
turned aside 33 shots and Washington got goals from Nicklas Backstrom
and Alexander Semin
in erasing a 2-0 lead Philadelphia built by early in the second period.
“There is still another chance,” said Flyers center Danny Briere. “We have to forget what happened and leave it all on the ice over there. We know we can win there, we did it earlier in the series. That is all we have to think about.”
Briere and Mike Richards scored power-play goals for the Flyers, who had won the previous two games at Wachovia Center, including a double-overtime win in Game 4 that gave them a commanding lead.
Now they’re in danger of letting a 3-1 advantage slip away for the third time in franchise history. Washington rallied against them 20 years ago, and more recently New Jersey pulled off the feat in the 2000 Eastern Conference final. Philadelphia is 1-3 when playing a Game 7 on the road.
“We just got away from our game,” Richards said. “Now, (Tuesday) night’s desperation time.”
The final 20 minutes Monday featured the breakout performance from Ovechkin that the Capitals and their fans had been waiting for since the series began. The Russian superstar was averaging a point per game entering Monday, but the Flyers had done an excellent job since the opener of marking him and limiting his chances.
All that changed in a flash when Viktor Kozlov spotted Ovechkin alone in the neutral zone. Kozlov’s pass sent Ovechkin in on a breakaway and he went top shelf over helpless Philadelphia goaltender Martin Biron at 2:46 of the third, giving Washington a 3-2 lead.
“All year I didn't have a chance to score on a breakaway,” Ovechkin said. “I probably had one goal on a breakaway. I did what I always do, and thank God it worked.”
The Flyers were caught with too many men on the ice midway through the period, and Ovechkin made it a two-goal game on the ensuing power play. Sergei Fedorov controlled the puck in the offensive zone and left it for Brooks Laich, whose cross-ice feed Ovechkin one-timed past Biron with 9:19 remaining. It completed a rally of four unanswered goals by the Capitals and ensured their trip home would be a happy one.
“The stars, like I’ve said before, everything seems to happen around them,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Whether it’s John Elway on ‘The Drive’ or baseball players who are great, coming up to bat in the last inning, and Alex is no exception.
“He worked so hard. I was so happy for him because you could see he was starting to get a little frustrated and they were doing such a good job on him. But he persevered and did what he had to.”
The same could be said of the Flyers’ power play, which capitalized on its first two opportunities and scored early in each of the first two periods. Richards struck 3:49 into the game, then the red-hot Briere notched his NHL-leading sixth of the playoffs at 1:18 of the second.
One more goal by the Flyers could have buried the Capitals, but instead it was Backstrom pulling them to within 2-1 at 9:34 with his third of the postseason. Semin set up the goal and would score the equalizer with 1:57 left in the period, pouncing on the rebound of a John Erskine shot on which Biron had made a sensational save, but one that left him sprawled in the crease and the net wide open.
“They played with desperation and were throwing everything at the net,” said Biron, who finished with 36 saves. “They skated hard and we got a little casual and I think that hurt us.”
Now each team gets one shot to advance or pack up for the offseason. Ovechkin is surging and the Capitals will have home ice, but they didn’t survive a tumultuous season and get to this point by taking anything for granted. The Flyers held a 4-2 lead in the third period of the series opener before faltering and Biron recorded his first playoff shutout in Game 2 at the Verizon Center.
“We’ve won nothing and we know how resilient they are,” Boudreau said.
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.