- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

After last night’s 4-1 victory over Philadelphia, the Washington Capitals have a chance to sweep the Flyers in a season series for the first time.

The Caps are 3-0 this season against the Flyers, their primary tormentors since Washington’s first season in 1974-75. The Caps won both of this season’s earlier meetings 5-3. Their final meeting will be Jan. 9 at Verizon Center.

Washington has never come close to sweeping a season series against its more established neighbor to the north. The Caps have lost only once to the Flyers in four seasons but each time there also was a tie.

The Caps are on the verge of the accomplishment by coming from behind and playing their usual aggressive style — the same style the Flyers used for decades to drive the Caps to defeat in game after game.

“A little bit of confidence goes a long ways,” Caps wing Chris Clark said of the team’s current surge. “We weren’t concerned [being down early] because we’ve done pretty well against them. We know we can win definitely against them.”

The loss was the Flyers’ sixth straight, tying a franchise record for futility for the second time this season. The Caps have won seven of their last nine.

Philadelphia started strong, bolstered by the return of its leader, Peter Forsberg, who left with a concussion in the second period. Mike Knuble put the Flyers up 1-0 at 3:31 off a pretty passing play. Forsberg had the initial assist.

It took the Caps the rest of the period to catch up. Dainius Zubrus lifted a loose puck over Antero Niittymaki at 19:23.

Alexander Semin scored a pair of goals less than three minutes apart in the second. Semin’s first was strikingly familiar to longtime Caps fans. It closely resembled the trademark goals Hall of Fame right wing Mike Gartner used to score for Washington.

Semin came through the right circle, faked a shot and made the goalie commit. He then sped around behind the cage and tucked it in the open side before Niittymaki could regain position.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 22nd of the season early in the third, blasting a shot from the deep slot that glanced into the netting off the left post. He had three points in the game, extending his points streak to seven games.

“The big thing about Ovechkin and [Pittsburgh’s Sidney] Crosby, is you have to match their passion and work ethic,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “You can’t even take one shift off or they?re going to hurt you. [Ovechkin] has great passion for the game, and you have to come ready to work or he’s going to beat you.”

Caps coach Glen Hanlon said the turning point was when Forsberg was injured in the first, because he had been doing a good job defending Ovechkin.

“I can sympathize because you get an emotional lift when your leader is back, you’re playing well and you have the lead,” Hanlon said. “Then he’s gone, and the game is tied up. It’s a tough one to recover from.”

The Caps lost defenseman John Erskine in the second period. Erskine, whose solid, physical play has made a world of difference, took a slap shot on the left ankle. He made it off the ice without assistance but was limping badly. His status is unknown.

Notes — Right wing Richard Zednik continues his recovery from abdominal surgery, while left wing Matt Bradley is still out with a sore hand. Defenseman Jamie Heward was a healthy scratch. …

Ovechkin’s goal six seconds into overtime Friday night was the fastest overtime goal ever scored by the Caps, besting Kelly Miller’s record by three seconds. It also was two seconds faster than Steve Larmer’s goal that allowed Chicago to beat the Caps 3-2 in October 1990.

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