Capitals reject Flyers, win 7th straight game 3 1st-period goals pace 5-2 victory


PHILADELPHIA -- For years the Spectrum has traditionally been the downfall of hockey clubs with the temerity to venture into it.

Many an opponent has quaked at the sight of the two Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters, along with the retired jerseys of Hall of Famers such as Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent.

But these days nothing fazes the Washington Capitals.

"This might be as smart as we've played," said Kevin Hatcher, whose empty-net goal in the final minute sealed Washington's seventh straight victory, a 5-2 win over the Eric Lindros-less Philadelphia Flyers last night.

"We're not necessarily pretty all the time. But geez, we're playing good hockey."

The Flyers got a firsthand taste of that last night as the Caps short-circuited them by striking for three first-period goals, then never looking back in boosting their record to 10-1-1 after a 7-12-1 start.

Power-play goals by Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra wrapped around another by Pat Elynuik in the first forced the Flyers into playing catchup.

Without Lindros or linemate Brent Fedyk, Philadelphia had no chance in dropping its fourth straight against a Caps team that won here for only the 18th time in 54 games. Don Beaupre turned aside 31 shots in winning his fifth straight in goal.

"He made some big stops early in the game," said Capitals coach Terry Murray, after his club killed off an early two-man disadvantage then took charge. "And we know darn well they're going to come at us in the third period. But Donnie made some real big saves.

"The power play again was good for us, so this was a good win. We've gained a lot of ground since the start of the season. And we've won four in a row in our division. It was critical we could do that after the way we started."

Of concern now for Murray is maintaining this level of play, which has drawn the Caps within sight of the franchise record of 10 in a row, set back in 1984.

"We believe in what happened last year in the regular season," said Beaupre, who had little chance on both Rod Brind'Amour goals, both set up by Greg Paslawski. "At the start of the year we were missing a few key guys and the team was searching for an identity.

"We were a goal scoring team that wasn't scoring. Now we are and things are falling into place."

Not for the Flyers, who slipped to 2-5-1 since Lindros was sidelined with a sprained left knee ligament. "Our power play is awful," said Flyers coach Bill Dineen, as Philadelphia failed twice with a 5-on-3 manpower advantage. "They scored on their power play and we didn't.

"They took advantage of their chances and we didn't."

"I don't think they outplayed us," said Brind'Amour. "Sure, they got the win and they're a good hockey club. But we had as many chances as they did."

You had to wonder which game he was watching, as the Caps never faltered once they took the lead. "Usually, they're all tight games in the Spectrum," said Hatcher, after Bobby Carpenter's goal early in the third made it 4-1 and gave them enough breathing room to hold off a desperate Flyers assault.

"But we're defending our zone a lot better than we were the start of the season. We're more responsible and we're smarter."

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