Washington Capitals' Sergei Fedorov (91), of Russia, fights for the puck against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Martin Biron (43) and Jason Smith, right, during the first period of an NHL playoff hockey game, Sunday, April 13, 2008, in Washington. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Nick Wass
WASHINGTON - Looking tired and frustrated, Alex Ovechkin had trouble simply getting his puck on the stick a couple of times as the game wore on. The Philadelphia Flyers had stymied him again, this time with no allowances for any late-game heroics.
The Flyers shut down the favourite for league MVP, R.J. Umberger and Jeff Carter scored first-period goals, and Martin Biron got his third shutout in four games Sunday to lead a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals and even their Eastern Conference series at one game apiece.
The Flyers return home for Tuesday's Game 3 knowing they've had their way with the Capitals for five of six periods. Were it not for a third-period collapse in Game 1, they've be up 2-0 in the series.
"Everybody always says you want to split, going on the road, after the first two games," said Biron, who made 24 saves. "We played really well on the road, and now we have to carry that over."
Biron kicked Ovechkin's power-play wrist shot away in the first period, used the handle of his stick to deflect Alexander Semin's breakaway attempt in the second and sprawled on his back while corralling the puck with his left arm to thwart Dave Steckel in the third. The goalie who ended the regular season with back-to-back shutouts was back in form after allowing five goals in his NHL playoff debut Friday.
"He made some big saves early," Flyers centre Mike Richards said. "I think three or four of them were point-blank. When a goalie does that, it gives you opportunities and momentum."
By contrast, the Capitals - and their fans - appeared to have overspent on playoff excitement in Game 1. The team lacked the energy and creativity it showed in Friday's 5-4 victory, and the red-clad masses at the sold-out Verizon Center weren't nearly as loud as they were two days earlier.
"We got outworked, and that doesn't sit well in here," centre Brooks Laich said. "I think they were hungry and more desperate. They don't want to go down 2-0 in the series, and I think they stepped their game up to the next level today and we didn't do it."
Ovechkin went for broke in the first period, staying on the ice for 10 minutes spanning just six shifts. The 22-year-old Russian scored the winner in the third period Friday after failing to get a shot on goal in the first two periods, but on Sunday he had three of his five shots in the opening period.
"I didn't like how much he played," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He stayed on too long. It's hard when it's Alex. He wants to go so badly. He gets it in his head, 'I can do it,' and most nights he can. He looked a little tired, but he looked a little frustrated as well. He wasn't getting the puck, and they were all on him when he did touch the puck.
"We've got to give him a chance to have a mediocre game once in a while."
Ovechkin didn't get pushed around quite as much as he did in Game 1, but at times he and his teammates were merely out of sync. His low point was a complete whiff when attempting a shot from the blueline in the final minute of the second period.
"We didn't play hard," Ovechkin said, "and we didn't play our style."
The loss ended the Capitals' eight-game winning streak, as well as a victorious run of seven in a row at home.
The Flyers got all the goals they needed with a pair of odd-man rushes in the first period. Defenceman Braydon Coburn made a long lead pass from his own end to Umberger near the Capitals blueline. Umberger split the defence, which was in disarray following a line change, and beat goaltender Cristobal Huet up high on the breakaway.
A turnover at centre ice led to the second goal. Mike Knuble took the puck from Jeff Green and started a 2-on-1 rush. Huet made a kick save on Knuble's shot, but Carter was there to chip in the easy rebound.
Biron took care of the rest, with the help of a defence that cleared nearly every rebound, leaving no garbage-goal opportunities for the Capitals. He and his teammates also killed off all six Washington power plays.
"I think we did a great job taking away a lot of the shots, their big weapons," Biron said, "especially when we're on the penalty kill. We got in front of a lot of pucks out there or made them pass it around instead of shooting. That's something we did well."
Notes: Flyers D Randy Jones (flu) and RW Sami Kapanen (flu, neck) returned after missing Game 1. LW Patrick Thoresen, hospitalized Friday night after being struck in the groin by a puck in Game 1, did not play but is a possibility for Game 3. ... Capitals D Jeff Schultz played after missing Game 1 with an undisclosed injury.