- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2008

Late in the third period yesterday Mike Green swung his stick at the puck and missed before proceeding to take an ill-advised interference penalty.

When the official blew his whistle to signal the infraction with 3:09 left, Alex Ovechkin whacked his stick on the ice in disgust. Moments later goaltender Cristobal Huet gave a Philadelphia player a two-handed shove.

It was evident the Washington Capitals were frustrated.

Less than 48 hours after yielding a two-goal lead in the final period, the Philadelphia Flyers made sure there would be no incredible Caps comeback. Martin Biron made 24 saves to earn his first playoff shutout and the Flyers stifled the Caps 2-0 at sold-out Verizon Center to even their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 1-1.

Photos: Capitals all tied up

“It was frustrating. They were all over us,” Green said. “Anytime they could finish a check they did, and they made it tough to make plays. We’re all about creating plays and being aggressive, and tonight we didn’t have a chance to do that.”

R.J. Umberger put the Flyers in front 5:53 into the opening period. Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn hit Umberger in stride with a perfect stretch pass, and he blew past Caps defensemen John Erskine and Jeff Schultz before depositing a shot into the top left corner of the net.

It was the second breakaway the Caps allowed in the first six minutes, and it would be a theme in the first 20 minutes — the Flyers had only nine shots but quality scoring chances aplenty.

Philadelphia coach John Stevens said Saturday putting the clamps on Green would be a priority yesterday, and that emphasis led to the Flyers’ second goal. After Green was knocked off the puck in the neutral zone, it led to a 2-on-1 for Philadelphia.

Caps goalie Cristobal Huet stopped Mike Knuble’s slap shot from the right wing, and even got a piece of Jeff Carter’s first rebound attempt, but a second whack from near the left post led to a 2-0 Flyers lead at 15:17.

“That’s the one thing we may have learned from Game 1 — I don’t think you can just run at him,” Stevens said. “You can’t just try to get hits on him, and you can’t chase him behind the net. Sometimes you gotta angle and make sure he doesn’t get up the ice in front of you and try to force the puck out of his hands.”

Green had seven shots on net and six that were either blocked or missed the mark Friday night. Yesterday afternoon, despite five more minutes of ice time, Green was limited to just two shots.

“As soon as I got the puck, I felt like there was a guy on me,” Green said.

Green wasn’t alone with his struggles. The Flyers’ defensive duo of Kimmo Timonen and Coburn had their second straight effective outing against Ovechkin. The Caps left wing had five shots but has yet to figure in on the scoring of a goal when those two are on the ice.

Alexander Semin had a pair of prime opportunities near the goal mouth, but he tried one too many fakes the first time and then went from too much patience to not enough as he rushed a shot off the crossbar on the second one. Matt Cooke also had a pair of chances in close, but Biron stoned him on both.

Then there were the problems on the power play. The Caps failed to convert on six chances, including four in the first period.

Missed opportunities were an issue in the first 20 minutes, but the inability to create them was a larger one once Washington fell behind by two goals. Passes were a touch off, shots just a bit wide, but more importantly, the Flyers were beating the Caps to loose pucks and leaving the corners with those loose pucks much more than they did in Game 1.

“They were winning all the little battles against us, and in the playoffs that is how you win games,” Caps forward Matt Bradley said. “When you are winning the one-on-one battles, you are going to be successful. We did it in the first game, and they did it today.”

Added Caps coach Bruce Boudreau: “I can’t put it any plainer — Philadelphia outplayed us, outworked us and outwon the battles on us. We now know that we’ve got to pay a bigger price if we want to succeed.”

THREE STARS

1. Braydon Coburn: Along with Kimmo Timonen, held Alex Ovechkin in check for the entire game.

2. Martin Biron: Earned his first career playoff shutout, making saves on all 24 of the Capitals’ shots.

3. Cristobal Huet: After letting in two goals, Huet stopped 33 in a row and kept the game from being a blowout.

SEEN AND HEARD AT VERIZON CENTER

Although Philadelphia fans have invaded the arena for regular-season games, yesterday’s crowd was made up of about 85 percent Capitals fans, making good on the team’s “Rock the Red” promotion. Even Flyers fans did their part; the bright orange blended into the surrounding sea of red.

But red in the stands didn’t equate to red in the goal light for the Caps. R.J. Umberger’s goal less than six minutes into the game quieted the boisterous crowd. Jeff Carter’s later in the first period silenced it. By the time the Caps finished a lackluster second period, fans offered up only half-hearted boos to express their displeasure. …

Six Wizards players were at the game yesterday, and a couple were spotlighted on the big screen. Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Roger Mason Jr., Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songalia were part of the crowd of 18,277.

Stephen Whyno

BY THE NUMBERS

11:19Of ice time for Mike Green in the first period, compiled on only seven shifts.

39 Saves by Cristobal Huet, 18 of which he made in the third period as he helped kill off three Flyers power plays.

-2 Rating for Alex Ovechkin, only the second time in the last month he was on the negative side in the plus-minus statistic.

QUOTABLE

“He looked a little tired, but he looked a little frustrated as well ‘cause he wasn’t getting the puck and they were all on him every time he did touch the puck.”

— Bruce Boudreau on Alex Ovechkin’s fatigue


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