- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — Despite the two Philadelphia Flyers power-play goals and despite the situation — another must-win game — the Washington Capitals’ defensive plan never wavered last night.

Clear out the front of the net, contain Danny Briere as best as possible and kill penalties.

“We just wanted to get it out of danger,” Caps defenseman Steve Eminger said. “We made sure not to throw things blindly up the middle but be patient.”

Patience paid off in all three categories for the Caps’ blue liners, who had to play for some of the third period without Tom Poti (injury) and Mike Green (skate problems). As Alex Ovechkin took over the game with two goals, the Caps’ defense stiffened in the final 20 minutes, allowing only eight shots in a 4-2 win that forced tonight’s Game 7 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

The Flyers controlled play for the first part of the game, much like the Caps did in Saturday’s 3-2 win. Vinny Prospal made it 2-0 just 78 seconds into the second period. From there, goalie Cristobal Huet turned away the Flyers’ final 23 shots.

“We basically wanted to get the puck deep, and we would stand at the blue line and not let them get into the zone,” defenseman John Erskine said. “We knew Philly would be aggressive and come out hard, but we had to push back. We stayed in there and battled even though we were down 2-0.”

The Caps got back in the game with second-period goals by Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin.

In the third period, the critical stretch for the Caps’ defense came during a Flyers power play that was part five-on-three, part four-on-three. Philadelphia managed only a 35-foot snap shot during the advantage. Moments after the penalty was killed, Ovechkin added an insurance goal.

By making the simple play — hard attempts that would ring around the boards, chips over the defenseman’s head into the neutral zone and safe passes to the wingers along the half-wall — the Caps’ defensemen made the simple play work.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to do all season. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1-0, 2-0, 3-0,” Poti said. “We’re going to keep coming at teams. Some teams might have crumbled under that kind of pressure in the second period.

“[Allowing only eight third-period shots] was great especially when they were pressing and taking more chances. It was great that we were able to give [Huet] some support.”

Said Huet: “Right after we killed that five-on-three and four-on-three, that gave us a big boost, and they didn’t have many chances on that power play. That was the turning point. We ended up scoring after that, and special teams were huge again.”

Even when the Caps took their first lead — with 17:14 remaining — their plan didn’t change. And for the second straight game, the strategy worked.

“We didn’t want to lay back,” forward Brooks Laich said. “When we got that third goal, a key for us was to keep playing because we had the pressure on them and they were on their heels a little bit. We didn’t want to sit back all of a sudden and let them bring it to us.”

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