- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — This city is famous for its ferociously passionate fans, but something strange emanated from a gathering of nearly 20,000 of them last night as the waning seconds ticked away at Wachovia Center.

Silence.

It was as if the orange-clad fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, who typically boo their home team in defeat, were too stunned to summon a response.

Alex Ovechkin’s precocious friends helped erase a two-goal deficit for the Washington Capitals, and then he took it from there. Ovechkin netted a pair of goals in the third period last night, and the Caps rallied to force Game 7 in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a 4-2 victory.

“We never find easy way,” Ovechkin said. “We play with confidence, and we knew we could come back. We never stop believing in each other. We just keep pushing, keep pushing, and it is working.

Washington will try to complete the improbable comeback from down three games to one in the series tonight at Verizon Center.

With the score at 2-2, Ovechkin blocked a wrist shot from Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, and Viktor Kozlov sprung him on a breakaway. He skated in and roofed a shot into the top right corner after a slight shoulder fake froze Flyers goaltender Martin Biron 2:46 into the final period.

The Caps had one power-play chance with a 3-2 lead and didn’t convert, but they made good on the second one. Brooks Laich picked up the puck along the right wall and sent it across the ice for a blistering one-timer from Ovechkin and a 4-2 lead.

“I heard him yelling,” Laich said. “I think everybody in the building heard him yelling.”

For the fourth time in this series, the Caps fell behind by two goals. For the first time since Game 1, Washington recovered.

Mike Richards and Danny Briere staked the Flyers to the 2-0 lead with power-play goals in the game’s first 22 minutes, but the Caps were able to steady themselves.

Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin connected on a beautiful play to cut the lead in half. Semin took a pass from Brooks Laich at the blue line, and then the puck pinballed in a dizzying display of passing from Semin to Backstrom to Semin and back to Backstrom before he snapped a shot past Biron at 9:34 of the second period.

“I think maybe it was one extra pass, but it worked this time,” Backstrom said.

The game turned in the second half of the period, when the Caps became the aggressors and pinned the Flyers in their own end for long stretches. Caps goalie Cristobal Huet made a big save on R.J. Umberger on a two-on-one in the middle of Washington’s strong stretch to keep the game at 2-1 before Semin tied the game.

“I knew we were coming on,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “My thought process was we’re only one behind, and it will only take one shot. We were coming on, and at any point it could happen.”

After a flurry of heavy pressure, Biron didn’t handle John Erskine’s slap shot from the left point cleanly, and Semin swooped in across the crease to secure the rebound and flip it past the falling goaltender.

Both Semin and Backstrom have notched goals in three straight games after not having one in the first three contests.

“Those guys are both sick. This line give us results right now for our team,” Ovechkin said. “Semin finally found how he have to play, and you can see how he feels great and feels comfortable.”

In between Ovechkin’s goals, the Caps were able to kill off a two-man disadvantage and were able to hold on to the lead thanks in part to 33 saves by Huet.

Now the scene shifts back to the District, where the Caps have a chance to come back from being down 3-1 in a playoff series for only the second time in franchise history. The first time was 20 years ago against the Flyers when Dale Hunter potted the overtime winner in Game 7.

“It is just a belief in here,” Laich said. “I think a lot of people have written us off, but I think we can surprise people with how far we can go. We didn’t look forward to Game 7; we just focused on today. Now we can enjoy it for five minutes and then get on the plane and go home.

“It is going to be all business [tonight], too.”

SEEN AND HEARD AT WACHOVIA CENTER

Two trips to Philadelphia in the last week for playoff hockey have shown that this is big-time hockey town.

The atmosphere (including the great slogan “Vengeance Now”) for Games 4 and 6 was absolutely electric, the right combination of hard-rock music during every stoppage of play and a pregame video presentation that had fans frothing before faceoff.

The Flyers’ marketing department is also into motivational sayings. A series of them was displayed on the video board during warmups. A sampling:

• Ron Hextall: “The love of winning is second only to the hatred of losing.”

• Vince Lombardi: “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, why do they keep score?”

• Winston Churchill: “We are still masters of our fate. We are still captains of our souls.”

• Fred Shero: “Win today and we together forever.”

• And from “Wedding Crashers,” Owen Wilson: “Rule No. 76. No excuses. Play like a champion.”

Ryan O’Halloran

QUOTABLE

“When we were down 2-0, it shook us pretty good. But the way we were playing, I thought we had a chance. And sure enough, it was 2-2 after the second period, and the pressure was on them.”

— Capitals’ Sergei Fedorov

THREE STARS

1. Alex Ovechkin: The Moscow Dynamo broke loose for the first time since Game 1 with two third-period goals last night.

2. Alexander Semin: Helped the Capitals erase a two-goal deficit with an assist on Nicklas Backstrom”s goal and then the tying tally off a John Erskine slap shot.

3. Cristobal Huet: Didn’t allow a goal over the final 38 minutes and played his third consecutive strong game, finishing with 33 saves.

BY THE NUMBERS

13 Years since the Capitals last played a Game 7. They lost 3-0 to Pittsburgh in the final game of the 1995 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

20 Teams — out of 223 — that have rallied from a 3-1 deficit. Anaheim, Boston and New Jersey have failed to come back from 3-1 already this postseason.


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