Flyers-Capitals: Philadelphia Crushes Washington as Niittymaki Dominates

C KSenior Analyst IDecember 20, 2008

A sold-out crowd packed into the Wachovia Center Saturday to see possibly the best game thus far this NHL season.

In the early going, the Capitals were on the powerplay, looking to open the game's scoring. But Antero Niittymaki was not about to be fooled. He stood on his head, saving anything coming his way.

Once the penalty was killed, the Flyers had ideas of their own. Four and a half minutes into the game, Joffrey Lupul tucked one into the five hole of Brent Johnson scoring the first goal of the game. Matt Carle and Scott Hartnell both assisted the goal.

Mid-way through the period, Kimmo Timonen and then Lupul were sent to the penalty box, but Niittymaki held strong, stopping the Caps on both powerplay's.

The first period ended with a 1-0 Flyers lead, but it was amazing how it was the Flyers leading the way. In the first period alone, the Capitals recorded an outstanding 25 shots, but were denied on every single one of them. The Flyers had just six shots, yet cashed in on one to take the lead into the locker room.

Washington continued to out-shoot the Flyers in the second (14 shots to Philly's seven in second), while the Flyers decided to tally some more goals.

The Capitals had yet another powerplay chance four minutes into the period, but were stopped again. This left the door open for the Flyers to pounce. It took them 11 minutes, but Jeff Carter was eventually able to tuck it home for his 23rd goal on the season.

Fifty-four seconds later, Carter netted his second goal of the game, this time shorthanded.

The rest of the period was quiet, as the Flyers took the 3-0 lead into the third.

Just four minutes into the third, the Flyers were looking to lock this game up, and Scott Hartnell was the one who delivered, scoring his 11th of the season.

Brooks Laich came back for the Caps to make the score 4-1, but Scott Hartnell and Simon Gagne were able to respond with two powerplay goals to all but end this one. The only thing left to go was some rough-housing.

Early in the game, Riley Cote of the Flyers had been destroyed--excuse me, demolished--by Donald Brashear of the Capitals. We all knew the rematch was coming, we just didn't know when. Eventually, it came twelve minutes into the third. Cote didn't fully redeem himself for the first fight, but he did give a much better effort this go-around.

Just a few minutes later, Scott Hartnell decided he needed some new hats, and got some by scoring his third goal of the game.

Then over a minute after the goal, Josh Gratton, activated just for today's game, got into it with Matt Bradley. Gratton quickly put away with Bradley, beating him down bad.

That wasn't all for the physical play though, as Arron Asham decided he wanted a piece of Donald Brashear. Why he did, I don't know. Yet, the referees quickly stepped in, knowing what was going to happen. They broke up the two before any punches could be thrown.

The game ended quietly after that, but Flyers fans, their loudest game of the year, had experienced one heck of a game. Plenty of fights, an upset Alex Ovechkin, and a 7-1 Flyers win was enough to get the crowd roaring.

But all throughout the game, there was one player who got the crowd on their feet after every whistle--Antero Niittymaki. Niitty saved a total of 47-out-of-48 shots the Capitals sent his way, giving a stellar performance in net. He received first star honors, and it was very well deserved as he stood tall for all sixty minutes.

Scott Hartnell received second star honors while Jeff Carter took home the third star.

This win was one the Flyers needed coming off of a bad loss to Montreal on Thursday. This puts them back to within four points of the New York Rangers with three games in hand.

The Flyers next game is tomorrow, Sunday, at 1 PM when they face off with the New Jersey Devils in Philadelphia.