Semin helps Capitals stave off elimination
Scores winner, adds assist in 3-2 victory over Flyers to force Game 6
Alexander Semin set up the opening goal and netted the winner on a power play late in the third period to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
Nicklas Backstrom and Sergei Fedorov, with his first NHL playoff goal since April 16, 2003, also scored for the hometown Capitals, who trail three games to two in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.
Vinny Prospal and Derian Hatcher replied for the Flyers, who mustered only 11 shots in the first two periods before firing 21 at Washington netminder Cristobal Huet in a valiant third-period attempt to tie the game.
Game 6 is scheduled for Monday at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center (7 p.m. ET).
"We've been in this position before," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said before Saturday's contest. "People have counted us out. They wrote us off, saying 'Oh, it's been a good push, it's been a good story.' Now I think some people are waiting for us to die, and we don't feel like that."
Twenty years ago, the Capitals overcame a 3-1 series deficit to Philadelphia in the opening round as Dale Hunter beat Ron Hextall in overtime in Game 7. The only other time the Flyers have blown a 3-1 series lead in their 41-year history was in the 2000 conference finals against New Jersey.
On Saturday's winning goal, Semin took a pass from Mike Green at the top of the faceoff circle, curled around a Philadelphia defender and wired a shot through a screen past Flyers goalie Martin Biron for his second marker of these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hatcher gave Philadelphia some hope 44 seconds later when his shot from above the hash marks found a hole between Huet's legs to give the big defenceman his first goal of the series and cut the Capitals' lead to 3-2.
Earlier in the period, defenceman Tom Poti came up huge with Washington clinging to a 2-1 advantage. After Hatcher made a nifty forehand-backhand move around Green, Poti poked the puck off his stick to negate a quality scoring chance.
Flyers coach John Stevens pulled Biron for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation but Huet stood his ground, finishing with 30 saves on the afternoon.
Coming off a 4-3 loss in double overtime on Thursday, Washington showed some purpose from the outset of Game 5, displaying an aggressive style and hitting any Flyer in sight.
The Flyers were determined to repeat Thursday's effort with a strong defensive game. However, they spent most of the first period stuck in their zone by the quicker, more physical Capitals and went a 14-minute stretch without a shot on goal.
Washington outshot the visitors 12-4 in the first period and outhit them 22-9.
"There's a big difference from the first three games to the last two," said rookie Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who, like many of his players, is getting his first taste of the NHL post-season. "I guess this is why they say playoff experience is so important. I
never would've thought about it on this scale, never being here."
"I find they're really starting to pick up their physical play," Philadelphia right-winger Scottie Upshall said of the Capitals. "As far as I'm concerned, they're getting in some pretty good shots after the whistle."
Philadelphia got into more penalty trouble as the game wore on and Washington capitalized with two goals on six chances following a 2-for-4 performance in Game 5.
"There's an old saying, 'The squeaky wheel gets the grease,'" Stevens said. "There's no question, you get short-handed, and it ends up being the difference at the end of the game."
The Capitals struck first at 7:31 of the first period on a two-man advantage and led after the first period for the first time in the series. With Jeff Carter (interference) and Kimmo Timonen (hooking) in the penalty box, Semin sent a cross-ice pass to an uncovered Backstrom, who beat Biron on a one-timer.
Fedorov made it 2-0 at the 85-second mark of the second, skating all alone across the slot and lifting a backhander to the far side.
"They really came at us hard," Stevens said. "To me, that's a lesson we learned that won't happen again. We've got to come out and we've got to initiate."
Prospal did cut the Capitals' 2-0 lead in half midway through the frame when he redirected Daniel Briere's cross-crease pass into an open net.
Washington remains in the series despite the lack of productivity from Alex Ovechkin, who scored 65 goals in the regular season but has only one, the Game 1 winner, in the post-season.
Briere had two assists to move atop the playoff scoring race with five goals and nine points, one more than San Jose's Ryane Clowe, Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, pending Saturday night's games.
Green also set up two goals and leads all Capitals with seven points in the series.
The Flyers will have to make do for the rest of the series without right-winger Mike Knuble, who sustained a partial tear of his left hamstring late in the second period when he stumbled to the ice in a moment of indecision over whether to try to block a shot.
With files from the Associated Press