Saturday, April 19, 2008

Capitals win, send series back to Philly

The Capitals played their most complete game at just the right time, staving off elimination by beating the Flyers 3-2 in Game Five. The win pushes the series to a Game Six that will be played back in Philadelphia on Monday.

Washington played with a boatload of energy in the first period, getting a ton of scoring chances and keeping the Flyers on their heels. They scored an early goal on a 5 on 3 power play, but then failed to score again for the rest of the period despite dominating the play. The Flyers were held without a shot for about 15 minutes and looked lifeless. Every time they got the puck, they looked to dump it in and set it up, but the Capitals got to every loose puck and turned it right back up ice.

The Capitals stretched their lead to 2-0 when Sergei Fedorov scored a goal early in the second period. The Flyers finally showed some life and tried to fight back, earning a 5 on 3 power play that finally allowed them to get on the board. Vaclav Prospal scored a goal to make it 2-1 when Danny Briere gave him a great feed on the power play.

The Flyers then proceeded to dominate the play from that point on, out-shooting, out-hitting and out-chancing the Capitals. Despite getting numerous chances, they were unable to capitalize, and then had three costly penalties late in the third period that led to Washington upping their lead to 3-1. The Flyers managed to score about 45 seconds later to make the score 3-2 when Derian Hatcher took a pass from Prospal and fired it past Cristobal Huet, but they were unable to tie the game after that despite controlling the puck almost the whole rest of the game.

Huet, who finished with 30 saves, made all the necessary stops down the stretch, never allowing the Flyers to even the score. The Capitals played some of the best defensive hockey in the third period, not allowing the Flyers too many good shots despite the fact they dominated the play.

Biron was no slouch either, he could have easily given up more goals in the Capitals first period onslaught. The Flyers didn't appear ready to play in the first, and they were lucky the Caps didn't bury them then. They should look at the fact that they could have stole this one as a positive, although it is disturbing that as the series has gone on, the Flyers have looked worse as the Capitals have looked better.

One other thing to worry about: Game Four hero Mike Knuble was injured in the second period of the game and failed to return to the ice. The early indication is that he has a hamstring injury, and I would bet he is day-to-day.

The Flyers need to finish this series off at home on Monday. This Capitals team has proven that if you give them a small opening, they will storm right through it. Allowing the Caps to win Game Six and then letting them go home to Washington again would be killer for the Flyers. Expect the Flyers to come out with a ton of energy on Monday, and it will be the Capitals turn to weather the storm.

I still stand by my original prediction that the Flyers will win in six.

No comments: