Hats off to Richards and the Flyers

This story was written for my Fundamentals of Journalism I class at Delaware County Community College.
The Philadelphia Flyers opened at home to a sold-out crowd of 19,567 at the Wachovia Center. (Candice Monhollan)

The Philadelphia Flyers opened at home to a sold-out crowd of 19,567 at the Wachovia Center. (Candice Monhollan)

In a battle between two unbeaten, rival teams Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers bested the Washington Capitals in a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory. Danny Briere, celebrating his 32nd birthday, netted the overtime winner, giving the Flyers a 3-0 start for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

Flyers captain Mike Richards and Capitals star-winger Alex Ovechkin were the highlight of the evening when they went head-to-head in goal scoring. Richards won the fight when he posted his second career hat trick. Matt Carle totaled four assists in the second period, never before done by a Flyers defenseman.

The sold-out crowd of 19,567 was full of anticipation for the first home game of the season. “I think the teams match up very well and I hope the Flyers will have the advantage because of the crowd,” said Adam Necelis, a fan waiting to see the team for the first time. “I’m very excited for this season, especially with the additions of [Chris] Pronger and [Ray] Emery.”

The Wachovia Center exploded with the crowd’s cheers and boos. Mike Knuble, who signed with the Capitals over the summer, received applause from the crowd for his four years of service as a Flyer.

“Knuble is and will always be known as Flyers hockey, right up there with [Ron] Hextall and [Eric] Lindros,” said Michele Harris, a long-time fan of the team.

The first period was a battle of goaltenders: Emery at one end facing off with Semyon Varlamov on the other. Neither budged, stopping all shots they faced as they dazzled the crowd with some spectacular saves and stone-walled the opposition to end the period with no score.

492 hats rain down on the ice after Mike Richards' second career hat trick. (Candice Monhollan)

492 hats rain down on the ice after Mike Richards’ second career hat trick. (Candice Monhollan)

Richards scored the first goal of the game at 1:37 of the second to lead off a wild scoring frenzy which saw a total of seven goals scored in the period. Mike Green was whistled for cross checking 46 seconds into the period, sending the Flyers on the power play. Carle fed a cross ice pass from the point over to Richards, who took a steep angle shot from the bottom of the right circle and beat Varlamov high stick-side. It was one of three goals for Richards on the night.

Ovechkin came charging back a little over a minute later after a turnover in the neutral zone that led to a two-on-one breakaway. Ovechkin beat Emery to tie the game at 1-all.

The lead changed hands four times in the period. Kimmo Timonen, on a delayed penalty, took a shot from the blue line and gave the Flyers the 2-1 lead. The lead would be short-lived as Pronger committed a turnover in his own end to Nicklas Backstrom, who quickly sent the pass forward to Ovechkin, who punched the goal past Emery to tie the game at 2.

After falling behind 3-2 on an Alexander Semin goal, the Flyers looked to even things up. Richards scored his second goal of the night, once again on the power play, and then scored his third goal 18 seconds later, giving him a hat trick and the Flyers a 4-3 lead, forcing Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau to replace Varlamov with Jose Theodore.

The game grew in intensity in the third period, creating a playoff-like atmosphere. Semin scored his second goal of the night during the power play and Brendan Morrison tallied another goal with a deflection off of his skate 1:14 later, giving the Capitals a 5-4 lead with little over 10 minutes left to play.

The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate their overtime win against the Washington Capitals. (Candice Monhollan)

The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate their overtime win against the Washington Capitals. (Candice Monhollan)

The Flyers power play unit struck again for the third time when Scott Hartnell scored on the backhand at 15:45 to tie the game at 5. Three minutes later, Semin split Braydon Coburn and Timonen up the middle for a breakaway, but was denied the opportunity to take a shot by Timonen, who was whistled for hooking. This gave the Capitals a power play and the chance to win with 54 seconds remaining, but Emery held off the Capitals and sent the game into overtime.

After his initial shot was stopped by Theodore, Jeff Carter grabbed the rebound and passed it back to Timonen, who took a shot and was denied by Theodore. But Briere pounced on the loose puck, knocking in the rebound at 3:52 of overtime to give the Flyers the win.

“They’re fun once in a while,” Briere said during the post-game interview. “I know the coaches won’t like watching the tape tonight at home in their spare time. But once in a while it happens. Games are going to break open. Tonight [we had] a couple of breakdowns, but we’re still able to come up on top. It’s a good sign.”

Richards said he had never played in a more exciting home opener, adding, “It was crazy out there. It was loud, great hockey game. Hitting, scoring, everything in it, so it was fun.”

Blair Betts left the game late in the third period with a separated shoulder. He will be out for at least one month. James van Riemsdyk was knocked head-first into the boards in the second period and had his “bell rung,” according to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. Van Riemsdyk returned to the game in the third period. He will undergo testing tomorrow and will be listed as day-to-day. Carle became the first Flyers defenseman to have four assists in one period. Richards tied the Flyers record for most goals in one period. Richards was also the first Flyer to post a hat trick in the home opener.

[Game Highlights: Philadelphia, 6 – Washington, 5 OT]


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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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