- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jose Theodore had to go one-on-one with three players worthy of All-Star consideration in a shootout Tuesday night, and he proved to be up to the task.

The Capitals goaltender turned aside attempts from Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and Viktor Kozlov provided the only shootout goal in a 2-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at a sold-out Verizon Center.

“I always like our chances in shootouts,” Theodore said. “I think with the skill that we have and my [11-3 career] record, I feel pretty comfortable in them.”

The Caps now have won 12 of their past 13 games, and the latest victory avenged the only loss during this streak of success - a 7-1 defeat at Wachovia Center 17 days ago.

After Theodore made saves against three of the 19 players in the league with at least 40 points, Washington celebrated its 18th victory in 20 tries on home ice. Despite boasting one of the most potent offenses in the NHL, the Caps have proved they can get defensive with back-to-back 2-1 wins against Philadelphia and the New York Rangers.

“I think it is good,” Caps center Boyd Gordon said. “Obviously we can score, but I think we’re showing we can play defense, too. Our goals against has gotten better lately, and we need to keep that up.”

Nicklas Backstrom had the lone goal of the first period with a power-play tally at 2:10. After Kozlov outmuscled Mike Knuble along the boards to force the puck behind the net, Alexander Semin backhanded a pass in front. Backstrom knocked it down with his leg as he moved from right to left in front of Philadelphia goaltender Martin Biron before slipping a shot inside the goal post.

Backstrom began the evening ninth in the NHL in points, and his goal gave him (at least temporarily) the most power-play points in the league with 22 - one more than Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who both played later Tuesday. The sophomore center now has 12 goals this season - two shy of the total in his rookie campaign.

“I think it was pretty big for us to be leading, and it was a power-play goal, too,” Backstrom said. “We haven’t had the success we wanted the past couple games. It was a huge goal.”

In the previous meeting, the Caps had a decidedly different first 20 minutes. Washington outshot Philadelphia 25-6 in the first period, but the Flyers took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room.

Eighteen seconds into Tuesday’s final period, Michael Nylander hooked Carter near the offensive blue line, and five seconds later the game was tied. Carter won a faceoff to the left of Jose Theodore back to defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Coburn one-timed a pass from Timonen past Theodore, who was screened by Scott Hartnell.

Theodore signed a two-year, $9 million contract in the offseason to be the Caps’ No. 1 goaltender, but he struggled to perform up to expectations on a consistent basis earlier this season.

Since being pulled in the first period Dec. 23 at Madison Square Garden and put back in the game to begin the second, Theodore has looked like a top netminder. He stopped 17 straight shots to finish the game against the Rangers and has yielded just seven goals on 137 shots in five starts since.

“He looks way more sure of himself,” Boudreau said. “I thought the anticipation was great, the rebound control was really good - all the things that he is noted for when he is on top of his game are there.”

When these two teams met in Philadelphia, the Caps had six players injured, and a seventh, defenseman Tom Poti, left the game in the first period. Now the Caps are creeping closer to having a full, healthy roster, and it is the Flyers whose injury list is growing.

A pair of the Caps’ top forwards, center Sergei Fedorov (ankle) and wing Tomas Fleischmann (pneumonia), could be back in the lineup as soon as the next game, Friday against Columbus.

That would leave just a pair of defensemen, Poti (groin) and John Erskine (concussion), missing from the opening night roster.

“They are ready to play,” Boudreau said of Fleischmann and Fedorov. “Now let’s see if they can crack the lineup.”

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