Capitals beat Flyers 2-1

January 6, 2009 8:30:04 PM PST
In a statement game against a "we don't like them" rival, the unusual happened as Washington Capitals red overcame Philadelphia Flyers orange - on the ice and in the stands. The Capitals did some payback Tuesday night, beating the Flyers 2-1 in a shootout to avenge the only loss they've had in a month and ease some of the sting from last year's first-round playoff series loss.

Jose Theodore made 33 saves and stopped all three shots in the shootout, strengthening his claim to the No. 1 goaltender spot. Nicklas Backstrom scored in the first period for the Capitals, and Viktor Kozlov was the only player in the shootout to find the net.

Washington has won seven straight, 12 of 13 and 18 of 20, its last defeat a 7-1 drubbing at Philadelphia on Dec. 20. The Capitals improved 18-1-1 at the Verizon Center and have never had a better overall record at the midpoint of an 82-game season.

The most startling turnabout, however, was the atmosphere in the arena. Throngs traveling from Philadelphia usually match the home fans in noise if not in number, yet for the first time in memory the Flyers faithful were a minor blip when compared to a playoff-intensity Capitals crowd that sold out the building for the sixth straight game and ninth overall. Last year on this date, Washington had exactly one sellout for the entire season.

Perhaps the fans were feeding off Bruce Boudreau's comments Monday, when the Capitals coach said: "I don't know how much they like us, and you know we don't like them." Boudreau also said the penalty-filled third period of the 7-1 loss resulted in part from a Flyers team that was "bummed out that their tough guy (Riley Cote) got beat up twice."

There were few penalties this time, but the hockey was intense. Braydon Coburn tied the score early in the third for the Flyers, but Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were all thwarted by Theodore in the shootout. Martin Biron was also outstanding in the game, making 33 saves for Philadelphia.

Backstrom scored on a power play 2:10 into the game when he let a pass from Alexander Semin bounce off his body in front of the net before easily knocking the puck past Biron.

That goal stood through the first two periods, although the hockey was far from dull. The Capitals killed off 30 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play later in the first, and Alex Ovechkin gave the fans a thrill when he crushed Luca Sbisa into the boards late in the period. Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaananen made a sliding block of Michael Nylander's shot that was heading toward an open net in the second, and Theodore stopped Sbisa's breakaway attempt in the same period.

Coburn tied the game five seconds into a power play in the first minute of the third period, nailing a slap shot from the blue line after Carter won the faceoff in the Capitals' zone. Notes: Flyers LW Simon Gagne returned after missing two games with a shoulder strain. ... Philadelphia finished 2-2-2 on its six-game road stretch. ... The start of the shootout was delayed when officials recalled Zambonis, which apparently hadn't sufficiently resurfaced the ice. ... The game matched the two players tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead, but neither Ovechkin nor Carter found the net. They remained even at 27 goals apiece.