- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Washington Capitals’ trip home from Philadelphia on Thursday night was a silent, solemn ride. The trek north this afternoon should be significantly more upbeat.

Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom both scored for the second straight game, and the Caps in the final minutes warded off both the charging Philadelphia Flyers and elimination in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a 3-2 victory.

The Game 5 win at a sold-out Verizon Center yesterday left the Caps down 3-2 in the series and facing at least one more road trip this season. Game 6 is at Wachovia Center tomorrow night.

“As long as we still have a pulse, you just can’t count us out,” forward Brooks Laich said. “There’s too many guys that play so hard and are so resilient. It comes from our coach [Bruce Boudreau]. He is the Number 1 believer, and he instills that in his players. As long as we have a pulse, we live to fight another day.”

It appeared as if the Caps were clinging to a 2-1 lead during the early stages of the third period, but back-to-back-to-back power plays eventually led to the game-winner. Semin collected a pass from defenseman Mike Green and curled to the inside at the top of the left faceoff circle before snapping a shot through a mass of tangled bodies.

Laich, Green and Alex Ovechkin were all helping to provide a screen on Philadelphia goaltender Martin Biron — a stark contrast from instances earlier in the series when there were no Caps in the way.

“We were just talking [among the coaches] about how many guys were in front, and there’s no way [Biron] could’ve seen it,” Boudreau said. “Why Green was up there is beyond me.”

Semin’s goal put the Caps in front by two with 5:27 remaining, but the Flyers did not wait long to respond. Vinny Prospal found Derian Hatcher between the circles, and his shot beat Washington goalie Cristobal Huet between the legs just 44 seconds later.

The Flyers kept coming, and by the end of the period they had amassed a 21-6 advantage in shots, but there was no equalizer. Huet made 30 saves, including a stop on Danny Briere with three seconds left, to preserve the victory.

“They came out with their best in the third period, and we were lucky to fight them off, but I think we played a great overall game,” Caps defenseman Tom Poti said.

Just as in Game 4, tempers flared early with Semin was in the middle of it. Scottie Upshall tripped Caps defenseman Steve Eminger in front of his own net, and Semin took exception. A scrum in the corner ensued, with Upshall, Semin and John Erskine picking up penalties.

After the Caps killed the Flyers’ power play — and Huet erased a breakaway attempt by Briere — Washington struck first. With Jeff Carter and Kimmo Timonen in the box, Semin hit Backstrom along the goal line with a perfect diagonal pass for an easy one-timer at 7:31.

“[Semin] is probably the most skilled hockey player in the National Hockey League,” forward Matt Cooke said. “When he wants to play, he is unbelievable. We need him, and he knows we need him.”

Briere’s breakaway came 4:58 into the opening period and was the last shot of the period for the Flyers. The Caps finished the first 20 minutes with a 12-4 edge in shots and a 22-9 advantage in hits.

Sergei Fedorov gave the Caps a two-goal advantage early in the second. Viktor Kozlov feathered a pass to the cutting Fedorov, who backhanded a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle back into the top left-hand corner of the goal.

Penalties to Shaone Morrisonn and Fedorov gave the Flyers a 5-on-3 for 20 seconds, and they needed all of them. Mike Richards sent a diagonal pass to Briere, who hit Prospal with a cross-crease pass for a tic-tac-toe goal at 12:35.

It was exactly two minutes after Morrisonn’s penalty, and after an official review, one second was put back on the clock and Fedorov was sent back to the box to finish serving his infraction.

Now the series will shift back to Philadelphia, where the Caps won twice in the regular season but came up empty in two tries last week.

“We play well today, and I think we play well against them last time but lose in overtime,” Ovechkin said. “We’re playing our game now, and we have to keep it going. It is not done yet.”

SEEN AND HEARD AT VERIZON CENTER

There are several annoying things about attending any kind of sporting event: bad music, annoying public address announcers who think they’re getting paid by the word, fans going ga-ga over pizza and burrito giveaways, etc.

But yesterday at the Phone Booth, things reached a new low: The Thunder Stix made their first appearance of the series in the District.

Thing is, and this was proved Thursday night in Philadelphia, the stix don’t create noise. The rink was quieter yesterday than for Game 1. Memo to the fans if there happens to be a Game 7 on Tuesday night: Leave the Thunder Stix at home. Clapping and yelling will do just fine.

Ryan O’Halloran

QUOTABLE

“If you play a game like that and you can’t come out with energy, you’re not going to win anything in your life.”

— Caps forward Donald Brashear

BY THE NUMBERS

6 Shots on net for Alex Ovechkin in nine tries, an improvement from the first four games (13-for-41)

7 Blocked shots for Flyers defenseman Jason Smith

9 Points for Danny Briere, which made him tops in the playoffs heading into last night’s games

THREE STARS

1. Alexander Semin: Here’s hoping this guy gets into a tussle at the beginning of every game.

2. Sergei Fedorov: Much was made about pairing him with Alex Ovechkin, but he and Viktor Kozlov have found some instant chemistry.

3. Donald Brashear: He only logged 6:52 of ice time, but he was a human pinball with seven hits.

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