(Philadelphia, PA) – Danny Briere had three points, and Mike Richards scored a key insurance goal in the third period on a penalty shot in leading the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center. The Flyers now lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, two games to one.
Game 4 is set for Thursday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Versus).
Trailing by two goals after two periods for the third straight game, the Capitals managed to climb back to within one with just 4:34 left in regulation. Brooks Laich deflected a weak shot by Shaone Morrisson over the glove of Martin Biron to make it a 4-3 game.
The comeback effort was thwarted soon after that, however, when Richards was tripped up while going in alone on net. The third-year center was awarded a penalty shot with 2:59 remaining, and on his textbook breakaway move, kicked up his back leg before sliding a backhand through the five-hole of Cristobal Huet to essentially seal the win.
“I love [his] composure,” said John Stevens. “With the game on the line with all that pressure on him, he went in there like a confident guy and had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do. That was obviously a huge goal for our team.”
“I just stuck with what worked in the past,” said Richards of his move. “When you are that nervous about going down on a breakaway, you want to go with what works and what got you there.”
Mike Knuble’s empty-netter capped the scoring.
Philadelphia jumped ahead in the game early thanks mainly to the Briere-Vaclav Prospal-Scott Hartnell line.
The first period was scoreless until the teams combined for four goals in just over two and a half minutes. Fortunately for the sellout, orange-clad home crowd, Philadelphia had three of them.
The first came at 16:10. Prospal skated the puck across the blue line, froze defenseman John Erskine, and found Briere charging to his right. Briere lifted the puck over Huet for his first of two goals.
Each team’s fourth line also figured in the first period scoring. Washington’s Donald Brashear found Eric Fehr alone in the slot for a goal at 17:21 to tie the score, while Jim Dowd took advantage of a Capitals turnover deep in their zone and fed Sami Kapanen to make it 3-1. Kapanen’s goal came at 18:43, just after Scott Hartnell’s one-timer had given Philadelphia back the lead.
Each team scored on the power play in the second period, beginning with Mike Green’s slap shot which beat Biron to pull Washington to within a goal. Philadelphia got it back with less than 10 seconds remaining in the frame, when Richards faked a slap shot and found Briere down low. It was Briere’s fourth goal of the series.
“He finds the holes and he makes things happen,” said Prospal of his linemate. “It is great to play with a player like that. Scotty Hartnell is creating a lot of room for us in front of the net and we are able to make plays and put the puck in the net so far.”
“Not only down the stretch, but here in the playoffs he has been remarkable,” added Richards. “He is leading right now, and everyone is kind of jumping on his back.”
Philadelphia had a couple of scary moments in the game. Early on, an Alexander Semin slap shot caught Biron in the helmet, and the goaltender fell to his knees before being helped up by trainer Jim McCrossin. Then, at the end of the second, Kimmo Timonen was pushed into the Washington goal by Brooks Laich after the whistle.
No penalty was called on the play and Timonen did not return due to an upper body injury.
Both teams finished 1-for-7 with the man advantage. The most talked about penalty after the game, however, came at the 12:36 mark of the third period with the Flyers ahead by two goals. Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin comically spun around and dove to the ice when his skate collided with that of R.J. Umberger, drawing a tripping minor on the play.
Ovechkin finished with one assist, and was a -1 with four shots on goal.
Derian Hatcher returned to action since suffering a broken leg on March 15. The veteran defenseman finished with a +3 rating.
Biron finished with 16 saves as the Flyers outshot the Capitals, 33-19.
The Flyers are 16-3 all-time when leading a playoff series two games to one, while Washington has lost five of six.
Briere and Prospal each have six points in the series so far. … Patrick Thoresen returned to the lineup after missing Game 2 with a groin injury. … Lasse Kukkonen and Riley Cote did not dress. … The last penalty shot goal in the playoffs for the Flyers came on May 11, 1997 (Eric Lindros). … NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance.