PHILADELPHIA -- The music blared throughout the Washington Capitals locker room yesterday evening, a sure sign that things are going right. And any time the Capitals can beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, at The Spectrum, things are definitely going right.
"The players are happy and the coach is relieved," said Washington's new head coach Jim Schoenfeld, who collected his first victory and evened his Capitals coaching record at .500. "It took a little mental toughness to pull this game out after the Flyers came back, and we did it. It was a test of character, and we passed the test."
Goalie Don Beaupre played a confident game, ranging far from the net to break up the Flyers attack, and made 18 saves on 20 shots.
Defenseman Kevin Hatcher scored twice, once on a power play in the first period and on a seeing-eye slap shot that caught the far post and bounced in in the second period, to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
Philadlephia's Eric Lindros scored twice in the final period to tie it, but the Flyers failed on six power plays, five in the first two periods.
But it was a pretty play by Dale Hunter and Sylvain Cote in the closing moments of the third period that produced the game-winner.
With Hunter behind the Flyers net and being given the respect of a Wayne Gretzky (judging by the way the Flyers backed off), Cote came off the bench to find an open spot above the right circle.
Hunter made the perfect pass, and Cote took the perfect slap shot that sent the puck off the shoulder pad of goalie Dominic Roussel, with 1:44 to play.
Washington center Mike Ridley put his rebound in an open net with 2.4 seconds left for a short-handed goal and the final two-goal margin.
"It was nice to see," said Cote. "We all know we're behind in points and that we have to change our trend. At the start of this season, we were told to play good defensively and don't worry about scoring. But we've gotten the word now that we have to put more into it. We have to be smarter and pick the good times to jump up on the play."
While Schoenfeld is more interested in protecting the blue line than seeing his defensemen score, he couldn't argue with yesterday's result.
The Capitals gave an unusually high-energy performance in front of a sellout crowd of 17,380.
The team has exhibited that ability in the past, however, under former coach Terry Murray. The real test, as the Capitals know, is to do it consistently.
But there were a number of signs here that players are listening and responding.
Schoenfeld had asked his team to concentrate on standing up at the blue line and cutting off the Flyers attack. They did it.
"Jim came in and stressed the neutral zone to us," said Hatcher, who had an assist on Ridley's goal to go with two scores. "We needed a lot of work in that area, and he emphasized that. It took a lot of hard work, but we had good success shutting them down."
Schoenfeld asked Hunter, Dimitri Khristich, Peter Bondra, Al Iafrate and Cote to take care of the Lindros, Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg line, which had been on a hot streak lately. They did it.
"It was a big part of our effort," said Schoenfeld. "Hunter is a very smart, gritty player who executes well on faceoffs. I thought that would be a possession we'd have that the Flyers would have to work at getting back from us. Aside from two bang-bang shots by Lindros, it worked well."