PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals came into the Spectrum last night looking for vindication.
It was only a game ago that Capitals coach Terry Murray had criticized his team for its lack of intensity and lack of respect for the opposition. And it was only yesterday he said he has players who could take a game in their hands and turn it.
Last night, it was Mike Ridley, picking up a loose puck near the Capitals net, meandering through the neutral zone and then blasting across the blue line with the puck on his stick and Flyer Yves Racine on his back. Ridley hit a slap shot from inside the left circle for a 3-2 Washington lead with 10:18 to play.
Keith Jones, with an assist from Craig Berube, gave Washington an insurance goal on his second score of the night, with 4:09 to play.
Washington is now 7-0-0 when leading after the first period.
"We played a good, solid 60 minutes here, and we kept it simple," Murray said. "We had nice speed through the neutral zone, and we scored on rebounds -- our goal-scorers could add 10 goals to their totals if they'd just get to the top of the crease and look for the puck."
Much of tone came from the relentless hitting of Berube, Alan May and Enrico Ciccone. From the beginning, they were out to shake up the Flyers and open up space for Washington's offense.
"It's a tradition that the games here are physical," said May, returning to action for the first time since breaking his hand Nov. 10. "Enrico and Craig did what they were supposed to do. What people don't understand is if you make big hits and win the battles, it takes the momentum out of the building. And when their fans boo their team, it's like cheers for you and you feed off it."
Murray was glowing in his praise of the Berube-May-Ciccone line.
"Those guys played hard and showed a lot of character on the bench, on the ice and in the locker room," Murray said.
The Capitals hit hard early and scored late in the first period.
With 3:48 left in the period, Jones made some hard work along the boards pay off for Michal Pivonka and May when he scored on a wrap-around.
The puck barely squeezed between Dominic Roussel's right skate and the post before the goal was knocked loose. The officials called for a review of the play before crediting Washington with a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals got their second goal on a marvelous play. Defenseman Al Iafrate sent the puck out to Kelly Miller, who was streaking down the right side. Miller, with one continuous motion, kept skating and fired a shot between a defenseman's legs.
Roussel dived to his left, and, when the puck bounced away from him, left wing Randy Burridge barreled in for the follow-up and a 2-0 lead with 1:11 left in the period.
Though Washington controlled the puck for 12 minutes in the Flyers' zone in the second period, Philadelphia's Mark Recchi broke through for two goals to tie the game with 3:17 left in the middle period.