Caps' Depleted Troops Lose Ground in East as Flyers Muscle Up

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA - On a night when the Washington Capitals had hoped to inch closer to the front-runners in the Eastern Conference, they lost ground instead.

On a night when the Caps could not afford to make a mistake they couldn't not cover, they made a bunch - and the Philadelphia Flyers made them pay for each one.

The Flyers scored on two of the first three power-play opportunities they were presented and bulldozed past the Caps 5-3.

With the victory, the Flyers increased their lead over Washington to eight points as the third quarter of the season winds down. Philadelphia is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and holds the last piece of home ice for the playoffs as matters stand now.

Pat Peake scored twice for the Caps in the third period, his first multiple-goal game this season, to give him a career-high 13 for the season. Joe Juneau had gotten a first-period goal for Washington.

It is not that the Caps played poorly overall, it is just that when they made mistakes Philadelphia took advantage. And the Flyers were not the least bit hesitant to use their much larger frames to bully their way into the spots they wanted to go.

But there also were times when the Caps simply did not play heads-up hockey. A good example came on the Flyers' first goal, a power play on which right wing Pat Falloon was carrying the puck behind the Washington net. He suddenly reversed direction and fed an open Eric Lindros in front.

The problem was that by the time the Caps' defenders reversed, Lindros' stick was in motion and goalie Jim Carey still had crease to cover that he couldn't get to.

The next Philadelphia goal was another Washington mistake not overlooked by the Flyers. A Caps defenseman attempted to check Lindros into the boards and prevent a breakaway. Lindros was gone by the time the check was delivered, but he shot wide right.

Then Lindros not only went in and retrieved the loose puck, he passed out to Eric Desjardins, standing by his lonesome near the right hash marks. That easy goal made it 2-0.

Juneau appeared to be trying to pass to Michal Pivonka at 17:45 of the first when Flyers defenseman Kjell Samuelsson got his stick out and deflected the puck past goalie Ron Hextall.

Peake's first came halfway through the third period after Hextall had kicked out a Sergei Gonchar shot. It was an easy backhander for the center.

His second came 3:01 later when he redirected Calle Johansson's long drive through Hextall's legs.

Washington spent a good portion of the third period trying to do what many another team has already tried to do unsuccessfully, knock Lindros off his game. All that tactic accomplished was to cause more bad feelings between already bitter rivals.

NOTES - Other than injured players, the Caps had no scratches. Forward Stefan Ustorf (separated shoulder) may be the first of the injured trio to return, in about a week. …