- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The dream ride for the Washington Capitals is over.

Joffrey Lupul scored on a rebound 6:06 into overtime tonight at Verizon Center, and the Philadelphia Flyers won Game 7 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 3-2.

The Flyers’ victory was not without controversy.

Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead at 9:47 of the second period. Sami Kapanen put the puck into an open net from below the right faceoff circle but only after Patrick Thoresen shoved Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn into Huet to knock him out of the way.

According to a statement issued on the league’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Web site Washington’s Shaone Morrisonn plays the puck and Philadelphia’s Patrick Thoresen lays a legal body check on Morrisonn. No Philadelphia player makes contact with Washington goaltender Huet (Rule 69). This play is not reviewable.

The same situation occurred in the Caps’ second-to-last regular-season game - Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann knocked Tampa Bay defenseman Matt Smaby into goalie Karri Ramo and the officials disallowed the ensuing goal by Brooks Laich. No penalty was called on Fleischmann.

Alexander Ovechkin had the answer for the Caps at 15:29. Flyers defenseman Jason Smith stepped up at the blue line to check Laich, but he was able to tip the puck into the zone, where Ovechkin collected it and ripped a shot past Biron from just above the left faceoff circle.

It was Ovechkin’s fourth marker of the series and third in two games.

He had a great chance near the end of regulation. Ovechkin picked up an errant clearing pass in the high slot, but instead of putting it on net, he tried a slap-pass to Sergei Fedorov cutting toward the left post but just out of his reach.

Alexander Semin also missed an empty net on a rebound with a little less than seven minutes remaining because the puck bounced over his stick.

The Caps couldn’t have asked for a better start. Washington controlled the play in the opening moments, and Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps the lead 5:42 into the first period.

With Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell and Derian Hatcher in the penalty box, Ovechkin’s slap shot went wide from the left point, but it ricocheted off the end boards to Backstrom near the right goal post, and he put it off the back of Flyers goalie Martin Biron and into the net for his fourth of the series.

Washington had an extra 1:18 on the power play after Backstrom’s marker, but the Caps were unable to convert, and eventually the Flyers grabbed the momentum.

Scottie Upshall’s shot from the top of the left circle trickled through Caps goalie Cristobal Huet”s legs with the Flyers on the power play thanks to a hooking infraction by Semin. Philadelphia had a great chance to take the lead late in the period.

Fedorov was sent to the box for four minutes after his stick cut open Upshall’s chin. Eighteen seconds later, David Steckel was called for hooking, and the Flyers had a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes but could not convert.

The loss was an ignominious ending to a season that was a quantum leap forward from recent campaigns. Washington won its first division title in seven years and earned a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2003.

None of that seemed possible in November. After a surprising 3-0 start, the Caps crashed with losses in 15 of 18 and it cost coach Glen Hanlon his job. Enter Bruce Boudreau on Thanksgiving, and the frantic run to the playoffs began the next day with an overtime win in this building.

After 37 victories in 61 games, including 11 of the final 12 and seven straight to conclude the regular season, the Caps were the first team since the NHL expanded to 30 teams to make the postseason after being 14th in the conference at the season”s midpoint.

This season will be remembered for the great comeback but also for the individual excellence of Ovechkin. After winning the Calder Trophy in his rookie season, Ovechkin watched rival Sidney Crosby collect a scoring title and league MVP honors during their sophomore campaigns.

While Crosby missed a substantial chunk of this season with an ankle injury, Ovechkin moved to the forefront with one of the best goal-scoring seasons in league history and will likely collect four major trophies for his work.

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