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Ovechkin nets 30th, Caps take East lead

by Brian Hunter
Alex Ovechkin waited until the last moment, but he managed to steal the show again Sunday afternoon.

Ovechkin capped a third straight win for the Washington Capitals by scoring on a penalty shot with 4:12 remaining, his 30th goal of the season. He also added an assist in the 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Washington took over the Eastern Conference lead with 66 points, one more than New Jersey and two in front of Buffalo.

Mike Knuble had a goal against his former team, Alexander Semin scored the go-ahead, power-play goal in the second period and Brooks Laich tallied twice, including a brilliant shorthanded goal in the third that turned out to be the game-winner, as the Caps spoiled the return of Flyers goalie Ray Emery.

"He is a very intense young man," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of Laich, who hadn't scored a goal in eight games and had just two in his last 26. "Sometimes he likes to do too much. We just looked over his video -- his shifts, his goals -- we saw if there was anything we could find that he was doing different. We had a good talk, and I was so happy when he scored."

Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk scored in the first and Danny Briere had a late power-play goal for Philadelphia, which missed an opportunity to move into the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings. Emery made 17 saves in his first start since Dec. 5. He underwent abdominal surgery four days later.

"They've got a good hockey team," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "You want to get more chances, but you've got to do the work and do the right things to get them, so it's difficult. But I thought we had our looks, they had their looks - they put 'em in."

It took just eight seconds after Carter received a holding penalty for the Capitals to take a 3-2 lead. Mike Green put the puck on net and Laich swiped at the rebound. He couldn't control the puck but it squirted out to where an onrushing Semin could drill it past Emery at the 7:05 mark.

The Flyers got a chance to tie in the third when Tyler Sloan was sent off for roughing, but Laich went in on a shorthanded breakaway, cut across the crease from left to right and put a backhander upstairs at 4:56 of the third.

After tying his career-high with five points Friday against Toronto, Ovechkin had registered just an assist through the first 55 minutes of the game. But he received a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway with 4:12 remaining and scored on it to give the home fans one more thing to cheer about.

Not counting shootout situations, it was the first penalty-shot goal for Ovechkin in six career attempts. It was also the 2,000th shot on goal of his NHL career. Furthermore, it triggered a promotion in which fans get free wings if the Capitals score five goals.

"We just want to give fans free chicken wings and give them free food, you know?" Ovechkin said with a smile.

Briere scored with 28 seconds remaining and Emery pulled to create a 6-on-4 advantage for Philadelphia.

Jose Theodore finished with 30 saves for Washington.

The Flyers took a pair of leads in the first period, but neither lasted long. After Carter opened the scoring on a power play at 6:03, Knuble needed just 1:46 to draw the Caps even. Van Riemsdyk struck at 9:16, but Laich answered at 13:28 when he stuffed home the rebound of a Tomas Fleischmann shot.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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