- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — The Cristobal Huet who was unbeatable during the last two weeks of the Washington Capitals’ regular season returned last night.

The Cristobal Huet who spent the first three games of the Capitals’ Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers appearing unsure was nowhere to be found.

But it wasn’t enough.

Huet stopped 42 of the first 45 shots he faced, but No. 46 got past him when Mike Knuble pushed home the game-winner 6:40 into the second overtime, giving the Flyers a 4-3 win. The loss was back breaking considering the Caps’ quality of play (best of the series) and magnitude of the defeat (down 3-1 entering tomorrow’s matinee).

“We needed that game, but I think we played our first playoff hockey-type of game,” Huet said. “That’s encouraging, but we have to win the next game, and that’s all we think about now.”

After the Game 3 setback, coach Bruce Boudreau reaffirmed his faith in Huet when asked whether Olie Kolzig might play. Huet rewarded him with several tough saves and two sensational stops, both in the third period, against Scottie Upshall and Knuble.

“He made some spectacular saves,” Caps defenseman Steve Eminger said. “The point blank one on Knuble — that was a goal, and he took it away.”

Said Huet: “I’m battling out there, trying to do my best. But we’re down 3-1 now, and we all have to play a little better than we did tonight.”

On the winner, which came during another time the Caps couldn’t clear the zone, Huet stopped Knuble’s first attempt, but the rebound went right back to the Flyers right wing.

“I tried to put as much of body in front of the puck as possible,” Huet said. “It was a hard pass back to the front of the net and bing, bang — rebound, goal.”

Huet made two of the best saves of the playoffs in the third period.

Leading 3-2 with 10:53 remaining, Huet dived fully extended to his right to stop Upshall’s rebound shot.

“A desperation save,” Huet said.

The Flyers tied the game 52 seconds later when Danny Briere was left unmarked on the edge of the crease and slammed home the tying goal.

With 7:16 left in regulation, Huet stoned Knuble to help force overtime.

Huet made 11 saves in the first overtime, but the Flyers were more active in the second overtime. During one sequence, he stopped a rebound attempt by Briere, a sharp angle shot by Vaclav Prospal and a slap shot by Scott Hartnell.

Things didn’t start well for Huet. Philadelphia scored 18 seconds into the game when Jeff Carter broke free of Donald Brashear and scored the first of his two goals.

But Huet bounced back. Washington’s power play did its part, staking Huet to a 2-1 lead on markers by Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. And when the Caps went a skater (or two) down, the damage through two periods was minimal.

Penalty killers Boyd Gordon and David Steckel did fine work, limiting Philadelphia to five shots on its initial five power plays, including two short stretches of 5-on-3 play.

At the end of regulation, the Caps dodged a big-time bullet. The Flyers started the power play with 2:24 remaining and held the puck in Washington’s end for the entire two minutes but failed to score. The Caps wasted at least four chances to clear the zone.

“That’s something we have to work on, making sure the puck is out,” Huet said. “We’re doing a good job to get the puck back, but we’re misplaying at times. But it wasn’t damaging that time.”

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