- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — His team had just put forth its best effort of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series — hitting, skating and scoring with the Philadelphia Flyers for nearly four-and-a-half periods.

So when Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau returned to his team’s dressing room moments after Flyers forward Mike Knuble put in his own rebound at 6:40 of the second overtime last night to give Philadelphia a 4-3 win, there was nothing for him to say.

“I didn’t say anything because nothing is going to help right now,” Boudreau said. “We’ll talk tomorrow. They are a group of warriors, and they battled hard. Me coming in there five minutes after the game or two minutes after to say, ‘Keep your head up,’ — I think this is a time that they have to be a little down.”

After Washington netminder Cristobal Huet made one of his 42 saves on Jeff Carter, the puck ended up behind the net and eventually back on Carter’s stick. He threw it out front, and Huet got his glove on Knuble’s first whack, but Knuble potted the second and sent a sold-out Wachovia Center crowd into a frenzy.

He also gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead in the series with Game 5 set for tomorrow afternoon at Verizon Center.

“It is a pretty [bad] feeling,” defenseman Tom Poti said. “I lost a triple-overtime game before, and it just [stinks]. We played good. We played our game. We played our style, but we just didn’t get it done. It is frustrating.”

Huet made a pair of highlight-reel stops in the third period, but Danny Briere was able to knot the score at 3-3 in between. Huet dived from right-to-left and swatted away a shot with his glove from Scottie Upshall at 9:07, and then he sprawled left-to-right to deflect Knuble’s attempt at 12:44.

Just seconds after the first save, the Caps were caught with too many men on the ice for the second time, and on the ensuing power play, Mike Richards hit Briere with a perfect cross-crease feed for his fifth of the series at 10:01.

“One of our players jumped, and he wasn’t up, maybe because the crowd was so loud,” Boudreau said. “Alex Ovechkin was the closest guy to the bench when the infraction was called. I didn’t hit them on the back. I was yelling ‘Steck’s line’ [for David Steckel’s unit] and maybe he heard ‘Fed’s line’ [for Sergei Fedorov’s group]. It was an unfortunate mistake.”

Both teams had chances in the first overtime, but each goaltender made 11 saves. Philadelphia goaltender Martin Biron stopped Fedorov on 2-on-1 early in the extra session for one of the biggest of his 38 stops.

Ovechkin, who was held to one shot on 10 attempts in 28 minutes of ice time, missed a bouncing puck with an empty net beckoning late in the third period.

The Caps were in control for much of the opening period, but tallies early and late by the Flyers meant it was 2-2 during the first intermission.

Carter put Philadelphia in front with his first of the night 42 seconds in, but the Caps were able to steady themselves, and first career playoff goals from Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Backstrom notched his first on a power-play pass from Ovechkin that he one-timed past Biron at 2:41. After the goal Ovechkin turned to the fans behind the net and let out a roar.

After his team killed off back-to-back-back penalties, including two short 5-on-3s, Semin scored on a two-man advantage for the Caps.

With Briere and Derian Hatcher in the box, Backstrom slid a cross-crease pass to Semin, who stopped the puck and wound up from close range to roof a shot past Biron at 12:59.

While the Caps were able to kill off a fourth penalty, they never got the puck out of danger before Philadelphia tied the contest 1:27 before the break. Jaroslav Modry hit Carter with a slap-pass from the left point, and Carter was able to beat a lunging Huet for his second of the night and third of the series.

Defenseman Steve Eminger put the Caps back in front at 5:56 of the second period. After Semin crashed the net to the left of Biron, the puck squirted free to the right of the goaltender. Eminger was there to flick a wrist shot inside the near post for his first career playoff tally.

Eminger was dressed for only the second time this series — both have been in place of an injured Jeff Schultz. A first-round pick in 2002, Eminger was left out of the active lineup for 62 of the team’s 82 regular-season games, but the 24-year-old might have scored the biggest goal of his professional career.

After two games of being outmuscled and outhustled, the Caps were finally able to skate and bang with the Flyers. But they were left with a solemn train ride back to the District to ponder what might have been.

“It was a battle — it felt like a pretty even game,” Eminger said. “We missed some chances. I thought we played a pretty solid game, but what are you going to say?”

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