The Capitals won, 5-2, as Kevin Hatcher scored a goal and had two assists to lead Washington to its third straight victory. The loss was the Flyers' fourth straight.
But the busiest people on the ice yesterday were the referees, who whistled a Capital Centre record 294 penalty minutes -- 147 for each team. That total easily broke the previous record of 240 minutes set in 1982 by the same two teams.
"It's one of those things that builds up in a rivalry like ours over the years," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "The Flyers are close to us, and a lot of their fans make the trip here. We're both Patrick Division teams and we're battling for a playoff spot."
The game was physical from the outset and culminated with a third-period brawl that stopped action for 21 minutes and led to the ejection of 11 players. With 7 minutes, 56 seconds remaining, the teams engaged in a battle royale behind the Capitals' goal that involved every player on the ice -- Philadelphia's Pete Peeters skated from the far goal to become the 12th man in the fray.
The coaches got involved, as Murray and Paul Holmgren of the Flyers shouted at each other from the benches after Holmgren brandished a stick at Murray.
Just when everything had quieted down, on the ice, Philadelphia's Keith Acton skated to the Capitals bench and tried to hit Ken Sabourin with his stick. Acton was one of the 11 ejected after the altercation.
As for the shouting match with Holmgren, Murray said: "Paul said that Dale Hunter hit his man [Gord Murphy] with a cheap shot on the boards, and I replied that that's the way Hunter plays and has played every shift in this league."
Said Holmgren: "You have to expect a physical game when these teams meet, but we didn't stick to our game plan. Terry [Murray] is still my friend, it was just one of those things."
The fights and penalties overshadowed Washington's domination before 17,583. It marked the first time since early December that the Capitals have won three in a row. Washington leads the season series with Philadelphia, 3-1-1.
The Capitals cruised to a 5-0 lead against Ron Hextall, who surrendered four goals, and his replacement, Peeters.
Washington scored the only goal in the penalty-filled (76 minutes) first period. Michal Pivonka, skating down the slot, took a pass from Hatcher, faked Hextall to the ice and wristed the puck into the open net during a power play at 15:39.
A three-goal second period boosted the lead to 4-0.
"It was a very big win," said Murray. "The three wins in a row are a start on our climb up the hill toward the playoffs.