LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals finally played hockey last night. They didn't win, but they looked good enough to give the 14,563 faithful at USAir Arena hope that one day they might.
But for a team giving up an average of six goals, that, in itself, is one of numerous morale builders for the Capitals, who will try for their first win of the NHL season here tonight against Buffalo.
"I don't want anyone to leave with his head down [last night]," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "I want them all to come back play this way again [tonight]."
The Capitals took only two penalties and didn't give up a power-play goal. They went hard to the net. They outshot the Flyers, 39-18, a huge turnaround for a team that has given up an average of 37 shots in its previous five losses.
And, though they couldn't get the puck past a seemingly invincible Dominic Roussel, who is 4-0 this season, the Capitals continued to dominate play, even after having what appeared to be a goal by Steve Konowalchuk wiped off in the second period.
Washington controlled the tempo and the puck -- a sight unseen this season until last night -- for most of the game.
"They didn't have the better of the play," said Flyers coach Terry Simpson. "They had all of the play. We had good goaltending, good penalty killing and we simply stole this one."
The Capitals felt the same way.
"Sometimes, when you're coming out of a slump, you lose a couple games you should win," said center Dave Poulin. "I think that's where we are right now. If we play like we did in this one, we're going to win the majority of our games."
Coming into last night, the Capitals were willing to try anything. They put Byron Dafoe in net for his first NHL start, and started Portland Pirates call-ups right wing Pat Peake, their No. 1 choice in the 1991 entry draft, and center Konowalchuk, who played 36 games with Washington a year ago, on the same line with Michal Pivonka.
Playing on the same line in Portland, Peake had five assists, as Konowalchuk scored seven goals in four games, and that combination gave everyone a thrill in the second period.
With 2:47 gone, Peake picked up a loose puck and shot. Roussel blocked it, and the puck came out to Konowalchuk, who seemed put it in the net for what would have been the Capitals' second lead in a game this season.
But the goal was disallowed by the officials, Murray said later, because "the action of our player kicking their player's skate put the puck in the net."
Murray said he has never heard such an interpretation of the rule that disallows a goal advanced into the net on a kick by the scoring player.
"In my mind, that's a goal," Murray said.
"Steve tried to lift the puck to get his stick on it, and [Flyer Kevin] Dineen got his skate in there and the puck hit it and went in. If it had hit the goalie and gone in, it would have been a goal, so I don't understand this."
The good news for Murray and the Capitals was that they didn't stop playing well most of the rest of the way.
With 38 shots, Washington had a fair share of opportunities. One of the most frustrating for Murray came with 10:10 left in the period. That's when Peter Bondra was in the slot and instead of taking a wide open shot, decided to pass to center Poulin. By the time Poulin passed it back, the opportunity was past.
Murray said despite his team's improved play overall, he will make changes in tonight's lineup.
"We still haven't won," he said. "We have to keep trying new things, and I want fresh legs as well."
Philadelphia 0 0 3 -- 3
Washington ..0 0 0 -- 0