- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Washington Capitals lost their fifth Game 7 in franchise history tonight, a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers before a passionate and heartbroken crowd at the Verizon Center.

Fans will wake up this morning angry about the poor officiating that handed the Flyers victory.

They will think of what might have been if goaltender interference had been called when Philadelphia’s Patrick Thoresen drove into Washington’s Shaone Morrisonn near the Capitals goal, knocking goalie Cristobal Huet out of the net and allowing Sami Kapanen to score, putting the Flyers on top 2-1.

They will think of how sweet it would have been to do this all over again in another round, this time against the hated Penguins and their superstar, Sidney Crosby.

They will think about how exhilarating it was to be at Verizon Center with the crowd on its feet, roaring as if this were RFK Stadium in January 1983, chanting “MVP, MVP” when Alex Ovechkin tied the game at 2-2.

They will think about how far this team had come, winning 11 of its last 12 just to make the playoffs and sending this series into Game 7 after being down three games to one.

They didn’t want it to end.

But it didn’t end, not really. The Capitals’ success was just interrupted.

Never has the future of hockey in Washington looked more promising after such a heartbreaking loss than it does today. Capitals fans may not feel good today or tomorrow, but soon the pain will ease and be replaced by promise.

These are not the same old Capitals. This is not business as usual.

This team could dominate the NHL for years to come, with a stunning core of young players that grew up right before our eyes in this Stanley Cup quarterfinal series against a tough Philadelphia team.

It has been written numerous times throughout the season, but it bears repeating again to help the healing process following tonight’s loss.

The Capitals are just getting started.

“We’ve got as good a young core as any team in the NHL,” coach Bruce Boudreau said when this series started, and now that young core has some valuable playoff experience.

“We have a real solid foundation now, and the team should be good for awhile,” general manager George McPhee said.

When you get over the score of tonight’s game, start thinking about these numbers:

Alex Ovechkin, 22.

Alexander Semin, 24.

Mike Green, 22.

Nicklas Backstrom, 20.

It was Backstrom who scored the Capitals’ first goal - his fourth of the series - on a 5-3 power play at 5:42 to put Washington on top 1-0. The Flyers would come back to score on their own power play, when Semin was called for hooking at 13:59, and Scott Upshall drove it in between Huet’s knees to tie the game at 1-1 at 15:38.

It looked as if the Capitals were about to fall behind early when they faced their own 5-3 battle near the end of the period. Sergei Fedorov was called for high sticking at 16 minutes - a four-minute double minor penalty. Eighteen seconds later, Dave Steckel was called for hooking, setting up the Flyers’ 5-3 power play.

But Huet and the Capitals’ defense that included Tom Poti, Steve Eminger and Morrisonn were brilliant in denying the Flyers a score in that two-minute stretch that Washington was down two, and then for the rest of the period when Philadelphia still had a 5-4 advantage. By the end of the period, the Flyers had outshot the Capitals 13-8, yet the score remained tied.

Then came the robbery at 9:47 of the second period, on Kapanen’s goal when Huet was driven out of the net. Ovechkin answered six minutes later with a remarkable (is there any other word to describe an Ovechkin score?) shot that seemed to freeze Flyers goalie Martin Biron and tied the game at 2-2, where it remained until Joffrey Lupul scored the game-winning overtime goal for the Flyers.

Hockey fans may see some great hockey for the rest of the playoffs, but they won’t see a shot with a release as quick as Ovechkin’s was tonight.

In the darkness of exiting the playoffs, Capitals fans should keep that shot fresh in their memories. They will be seeing it for years to come.


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