After Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo sucker-punched Matt Bradley late in the first period, the Washington Capitals' power play struck back with even more force, scoring three times on the ensuing nine-minute advantage to spark a surprisingly easy 8-2 victory at Wachovia Center.
The victory stretched the Capitals' winning streak to five games and ruined Peter Laviolette's debut behind the Flyers' bench.
Six Capitals scored, including two goals apiece from Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Green, and 11 players notched at least a point, led by Nicklas Backstrom's five (goal, four assists) and Green's four. Backstrom surpassed Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in points, while Green pulled even with the two-time Most Valuable Player.
"We have guys who step up and play when he's not in the lineup," said Green, who also assumed the league lead in points among defensemen. "We know how important he is to our team, and when he's not there, we have to play better."
Asked about catching up to Ovechkin, who was serving the second game of a two match suspension, Green cracked: "Alex better pick it up."
Even David Steckel got in on the action, scoring his first goal since Game 6 of the Pittsburgh playoff series last spring. In an effort to end Steckel's drought, which had been weighing on the checking-line center, coach Bruce Boudreau put Steckel out with Backstrom, Green and Alexander Semin on a late power play.
"I had a smile ear to ear, and I'll probably have one all night long," said Steckel, whose goal, the Capitals' eighth, wrapped up Washington's most lopsided win of the season. "It's been a long year for me so far."
What figured to be a back-and-forth battle between rivals changed in a matter of seconds late in the first period. With the score tied 1-1, Bradley finished his check on Carcillo along the sideboards. Carcillo took exception to the clean hit and delivered a cross-check to Bradley's back. By the time Bradley realized he was being engaged, Carcillo had dropped his gloves, cocked his fist and delivered a right to Bradley's jaw, dropping the wing to the ice.
Carcillo's sucker punch sabotaged his team's hopes. The Flyers' leader in penalty minutes was assessed two minutes for cross-checking, two more for instigating, a five-minute fighting major, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. He could face further punishment from the league.
"I haven't had a chance to see it, but I know I hadn't dropped my gloves yet," Bradley said. "Maybe it's my fault for not expecting that. I was willing to fight him and didn't get going. Obviously, I had my bell rung and was a little woozy."
Boudreau said: "I'd have to look at it, but he certainly got a jump on him. Looked like Daniel was ready, and I don't know if Matt was."
José Theodore (34 saves) made a critical save on a short-handed opportunity early in the power play, then the Capitals set up in the Flyers' zone and put the game away.
Fleischmann scored the second of his two goals to restore Washington's lead at 16:40. Then, on Washington's next shot, Green scored his first of two goals to make it 3-1, and the rout was on.
Only 36 seconds into the second period, Brooks Laich beat Ray Emery. Then Chris Clark scored on an ordinary-looking wrist shot, forcing Laviolette to make the first goaltending change of his Flyers' tenure. Emery yielded five goals on 17 shots.
Brian Boucher, however, fared no better. Backstrom and Green each scored late in the second period to make it 7-1.
The outburst marked the second straight game that the Capitals blew out their opponent. On Thursday, they beat the Florida Panthers, 6-2. Both came with Ovechkin watching from the press box.
"It shows our depth, but we'll be happy when he plays Monday," Boudreau said. "He's a goal-a-game guy and the best player in the league. He's done it so many times for them, so they're stepping up for him."
Notes: Prospect Chris Bourque was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, two months after he was waived by Washington. Bourque, who had only three assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-4 in 20 games with the Penguins, was sent to the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. ... Mike Knuble (broken finger) is traveling with the team and is eligible to return from the long-term injury list Wednesday, though it's possible he won't suit up until Friday. ... Shaone Morrisonn (concussion) is also on the trip, but he missed his eighth consecutive game.