- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

For all the Washington Capitals fans who endured season after season of beatings at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers, last night was redemption.
Washington drove Roman Cechmanek out of the nets with three goals in less than seven minutes in the second period, withstood a two-man disadvantage late in the same period and earned a physical 4-1 victory over the Flyers, breaking a six-game losing streak to Philadelphia.
There are those who would argue that last night's win was the Caps' most important over Philadelphia since April 16, 1988, when Dale Hunter beat Ron Hextall in overtime of the seventh game of a playoff series, and they wouldn't get much of an argument.
A week ago the Caps were taken apart by the Flyers in Philadelphia, although the 2-1 score showed the game to be misleadingly close, which it wasn't.
Last night's was, at least for a period. The two teams tested each other physically, but Olie Kolzig kept his team in the contest, stopping 11 shots.
"We played hard right from the start," the goalie said. "They tried hard to come back in the third, but ultimately the penalties killed them in the second. And we were the benefactors on the power play. But everybody came out hard right from the start, guys backchecking, guys hitting everybody. It was a total team win."
Kolzig stopped 43 of 44 shots Mark Recchi beat him with 1:59 left on a night when his teammates seemed to make a conscious effort to sacrifice their bodies to protect the net. All the lines played hard but none harder than the checking unit of Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Mike Grier.
"We played the best team in the league tonight, and that was the team we had to beat," Konowalchuk said. "We came prepared, and I think we played the best two periods of our season tonight, everyone, every situation. Now we've got to build on that."
The second-period eruption started early and was pushed along by five consecutive Flyers penalties. John LeClair took a retaliatory penalty 18 seconds into the second, and three seconds later the Caps' defensive corps had its first goal of the season when Sergei Gonchar drove a 55-footer past Cechmanek.
Three minutes in, with Recchi off for tripping, Konowalchuk slapped a rebound into the open side of the net, and it was 2-0. Less than three minutes later Donald Brashear went off for holding and Jaromir Jagr took a pass through the crease that two Flyers missed and easily tapped it home for their third goal in 6:27.
Washington went up 4-0 at 15:26 when Robert Lang hit Peter Bondra with a pinpoint, cross-rink pass and the wing went in on a breakaway and ripped a shot over backup Robert Esche's gloved hand.
The Caps were down a pair for 1:35 toward the end of the period, but the Flyers could get only three shots through to Kolzig. The Caps had been up two men for 1:17 earlier but also went scoreless.
The first period was as physical a 20-minute span of give-and-take as the Caps have gone through. It started 11 seconds into the game when Keith Primeau was called for boarding, trying to drive Jeff Halpern through the pine. It was a brutal, physical period that indicated the importance of the game to both teams.
"I thought we matched them hit-for-hit," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "To get some power-play goals there in the second, that's the key. Special teams and goaltending, you win those battles, and you're going to win 90 percent of your games. They're a team that's on top in the East, and they're the measuring stick right now. To be able to out-hit them and out-skate them, and that's the strength of their game, that bodes well for our club because we've gone in [to Philadelphia] and now looked very well. I think it's a real big confidence builder for our club."


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