When asked how he felt about his goaltending against the Caps, Flyers coach Mike Keenan said, "Normally, those goalies stop those shots." Froese was harsher in his self-assessment of Sunday's performance: "If I play my normal game, we win."
The Caps didn't win any style points, but two points in the standings were quite enough. The starting lineups were ominous: Philly featured Brown and His Fists of Renown. On the undercard for the Flyers were center Peter Zezel and defenseman Dave Richter, who may be the toughest guy in the league. The Caps countered with noted peacekeepers Dwight Schofield, Lou Franceschetti, Barrett and Smith. The result? For all of 15 seconds the would-be combatants snarled at each other, and then nothing happened. "Both teams have gotten to the point where we know we can play it tough, but to win in the playoffs you've got to play the game," said Murray. "Intimidation may be a factor on some nights, but come the playoffs, nobody's afraid. Then it just comes down to playing."
As hockey games go, this was family entertainment, richly appreciated by the crowd of 18,130, a Caps team-record 10th sellout for one season. Even those merry mayhem-makers from Viking, Alberta—the Sutter twins—showed more finesse than ferocity. With the Caps trapped deep in the offensive zone, Rich led a three-on-two, dropped the puck to Tocchet, who slipped it to Ron, who whipped it past Peeters at 1:38. Anderson to Gretzky to Kurd? It was nearly that pretty.
In past Flyers-Caps games, that goal might have been enough. But this time around, the players were saving their checking for the bank. Two minutes later, at 3:22, Carpenter ripped a slap shot from 45 feet that skimmed off defenseman Brad Marsh's shin guard and over Froese's glove for his 27th goal of the year. "It was near the end of the shift and I was tired. But instead of just dumping it in—I knew Froese had trouble with high shots—so I let it go," Carpenter said. Good idea.
Mike Gartner, a splendid right wing, was largely responsible for the Caps' go-ahead goal at 4:40. He tried to split the defense, but was tied up by Mark Howe and Richter. However, the puck sprung loose, and Gaetan Duchesne slipped a backhander through Froese's legs. In 78 seconds the Caps had scored twice as many goals as they had produced in three games at Philadelphia.
Tim Kerr, Philly's immovable object, tied the score at 2-2 with his 51st goal, an NHL-record 32nd power play goal, taking a pass from Swede Pelle Eklund and ricocheting it in off the far post. "I was all over him, and he still got a piece of it," said Caps defenseman Rod Langway. "It was a lucky goal, really. There were a lot of goals like that, bouncy goals, strange." There was nothing strange about Kerr's 52nd, which put Philadelphia ahead 3-2 at 15:48. With Peeters peeking around the left post, Kerr took a behind-the-net pass from Brian Propp and blasted it into the open side.
The goals kept coming in the second period, too. Scott Stevens's was easily the ugliest, the Caps' young defenseman bulling his way from behind the Flyers' net and stuffing the puck under Froese for a 3-3 tie. "I saw it rolling on his glove, so I kept whacking at it," he said. "Finally I just pushed the pad in the net, too. Pretty, wasn't it?"
The next one was. Dave Christian, the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medalist who is having a career season (38-38-76), took a pass from Bengt Gustafsson and beat Froese high on the stick side for a 4-3 Caps lead. "That was the goal that upset me," said Froese. "I should have stood up and challenged him." Keenan wasn't real pleased, either. Exit Froese, enter Resch.
At 11:30 the Capitals went up 5-3, Craig Laughlin scoring on a power play that had been 2 for 22 against the Flyers. But 11 seconds later, before the crowd was back in its seats, Ilkka Sinisalo scored to cut the Caps' lead to 5-4.
Jensen had all of one minute and 37 seconds in the third period to understand why puck-stopping can be a lousy way to make a living. Called on to protect that 5-4 lead, Jensen "reacted a little slowly" on a Brian Propp backhander—and it was 5-5. But then, Resch didn't react at all on Gould's game winner at 2:54. "I hate backhanders," he said.