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Caps Explode in Third

By Mark Solway | September 29th, 2007

The Washington Capitals erupted for five straight goals in the third period, to stun the Philadelphia Flyers with a 7-5 come-from-behind win at the Verizon Center. Alex Ovechkin led the way with two goals and two assists, and earned the game’s first star honors.

After falling to 5-2 early in the third on a Flyers goal by Simon Gagne, the Capitals could have easily folded. Instead, they rallied and got goals just twenty-three seconds apart from Matt Pettinger and Viktor Kozlov to get back to within one at 5-4, with just under thirteen minutes to go.

It stayed that way until the 17:11 mark of the third, when Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game. Ovechkin looked hungry, grabbing his own rebound, and banging it home to tie the score at 5-5; he wasn’t done yet.

Just over a minute later, Ovechkin set up what was ultimately the Caps winning goal with a feed to Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann beat Flyer goalie Antero Niittymaki with 1:48 to go, and the comeback was complete as the Caps went ahead for good 6-5.

Ovechkin hadn’t made much noise in the game until late in the second period when he seemed to take exception to a questionable penalty call that he received. Chris Clark got called for holding while Ovechkin was in the box, and the Capitals were suddenly down two men on two soft calls. The Flyers’ Daniele Briere scored his second power play goal in four minutes, and gave Philadelphia a 4-1 lead, just as Ovechkin was getting back on to the ice.

Whether it was anger, determination, or just plain grit, the Russian superstar took over. He scored just 37 seconds after Briere had scored, to get the Capitals back to within striking distance at 4-2. It would be his first of four points in a 23-minute span. While Ovie wasn’t in on Pettinger’s third period goal that made it 5-3, he assisted on the Kozlov goal that got the Caps to within one at 5-4, scored the goal that tied it at five, and set up the 6-5 game winner. That’s taking over a hockey game.

He had a jump in his step that made him look like he could score every time he got the puck. It’s something that could be tangibly felt in the arena, and it was very exciting to watch.

Dave Steckel added an empty net goal at 19:58 to round out the scoring at 7-5. It was Steckel’s second goal of the game, as he also opened the scoring for Washington in the first period. Steckel is on the bubble fighting for a job, and scoring two goals certainly won’t hurt his chances any. The casual observer might dismiss Steckel’s empty netter, but in reality, it shows that coach Glen Hanlon thought enough of him to send him out there with the game on the line.

Steckel’s face-off ability had a lot to do with Hanlon’s decision, and may be the key to Dave sticking with the Caps instead of going back to Hershey. Winning draws is not only a talent, but a commodity; anybody that can win over sixty per cent of their draws has a good chance of cracking a third or fourth line somewhere in the National Hockey League.

Pre-season is pre-season, and NHL teams can go an entire one without any single result making much of an impact on the team’s season. Friday’s third period against Philadelphia could prove the contrary for Washington though, as there’s a tremendous amount of confidence can be gleaned from erasing a three goal deficit in the final period.

As a restructured Capitals team seeks out a new identity that suits the many changes in the line-up, perhaps Friday’s five goal third period can become a defining moment for the young, offensive team.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway

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