- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

Matt Cooke, Donald Brashear, Matt Bradley and David Steckel didn’t need to be told Friday that the Washington Capitals had to be more physical from the start of yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Capitals wanted to be the aggressors. And they were, out-hitting the Flyers 22-9 in the first period of their 3-2 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. All but two of the Caps’ 18 skaters posted at least one hit and five players had four or more hits.

“They play physical, and we know we can play physical, too,” said Brashear, who led the Caps with seven hits. “We showed that all season. But sometimes we don’t do it the way we’re capable of. Tonight we did.”

Said Bradley: “That was playoff hockey. I thought all of our guys played a physical first period and carried it out for most of the game. That’s the way we’re successful.”

Cooke, Steckel and Bradley were freight trains on the third line, hitting anything in white and orange. The trio combined for 13 hits as the Caps out-hit Philadelphia 44-38.

“We want to be the initiators,” Cooke said. “A lot of times when you’re on the other end of those hits, you tend to retaliate and that’s something we need to stay away from. We obviously want to make life tough on them.”

The Caps’ physical play appeared to pick up during their Game 4 overtime defeat. Washington posted 44 hits. Washington has out-hit Philadelphia in four of the five games.

“We threw everything at them,” right wing/center Brooks Laich said. “We were hungry and desperate, and it was more about us. They couldn’t get through the neutral zone and get their forecheck going. We were able to set the tone in the first period.”

Knuble out

Flyers right wing Mike Knuble, who scored the overtime winner in Game 4, sustained a left hamstring injury in the second period and did not return.

Knuble is expected to miss the rest of the series. He had five points in the series’ first four games and was injured when he went down to try and block Mike Green’s shot. Green didn’t shoot on the play.

The extra right wings on Philadelphia’s roster are Steve Downie and Denis Tolpeko, neither of whom has played in the series.

Lesson learned

Philadelphia registered only five shots on goal in the first 30 minutes; the Flyers had 27 in the final half of the game.

Despite their lack of offense, the Flyers remained in the game, trailing 2-1 entering the third period.

“They came at us hard, but to me that’s a lesson we’ve learned and it won’t happen again,” coach John Stevens said. “We have to come out and initiate. We did a lot of good things as the game progressed, but there’s no question things were going their way the first half of the hockey game.”

Penalty kill excelling

The Caps continue to be strong on the penalty kill. The Flyers were 1-for-3 on the power play (the goal came at the end of a 5-on-3) and had only three shots on goal. For the series, the Caps have killed 21 of 25 short-handed situations.

“They aren’t getting too many quality shots,” said defenseman Tom Poti, who played a team-high three minutes, 43 seconds of short-handed time. “We’re keeping them out on the perimeter, and we’ll take that.”

Staff writer Corey Masisak contributed to this article.

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