Home sweet home.
For the 16th time in 22 home games, the Washington Capitals heard the final horn as victors at Verizon Center, today’s victim being the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 5-3. The win propelled the Caps to the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 66 standings points, one more than the idle New Jersey Devils.
The Caps very nearly “Lemieux’ed” the Flyers in this one, that being a reference to scoring a goal in each of the five ways such a thing can be accomplished in the real hockey portion of the game (regulation or overtime) – even-strength, power play, shorthanded, and penalty shot. All that was lacking was the empty-netter in the dying moments of the game.
It all might not have taken place, though, but for a misfire by Simon Gagne at the 42-second mark of the first period. He had the puck on his stick and goalie Jose Theodore at the other post, and Gagne bunted the puck into the side of the net instead of the back of it. The Flyers would get the first goal of the game later in the period, but had they scored there – in the first minute of the contest – it might have put the Caps back on their heels more.
When the goals came in this one, they came in machine-gun fashion. Jeff Carter opened the scoring at 6:03 with a power play wrister that Theodore got a pretty good look at and would probably like back. Mike Knuble got it back only 1:46 later when after Alex Ovechkin gloved down a high puck to his stick and sent it out in front from the Bradley Corner, Knuble pounced on the loose puck that goalie Ray Emery left lying in the crease.
Philly returned the favor after Matt Bradley was guilty of a giveaway in the Olympia Corner (guess he’d have been better in his corner at the other end of the ice) that Arron Asham pounced on. Asham sent it to the top of the circles where James van Riemsdyk was waiting. Only 1:27 after Knuble’s goal, van Riemsdyk wristed the puck past Theodore to give the Flyers their second lead of the period.
Then, Brooks Laich broke his eight-game streak without lighting the red light. Tomas Fleischmann sent a shot to the net that Emery fumbled, and Laich did the Knuble-ey thing and popped the puck into the net from the top of the blue paint while Emery was searching for the car keys.
The Caps got one power play on the day – one – but they made short work of it. Alexander Semin was the one Cap left unaccounted for by the Flyer penalty killers as the puck was collected by Mike Green at the opposite point. Green sent the puck to the net where it was redirected by Laich onto the stick of Semin, and Semin swatted the puck into the yawning gap that Emery left behind. Total power play production – one opportunity, one goal, eight seconds.
Laich notched his second (his first two-goal game since November 2nd) when Matt Carle made the sort of play that turns a coach’s hair gray. As he was crossing his own blue line, he left the puck for Mike Richards trailing behind him. One problem – Richards wasn’t near the puck. Laich chipped the puck past Richards, collected it at the top of the left wing circle, skated in on Emery, and backhanded it in when Emery bit on his forehand move.
Alex Ovechkin closed out the scoring, courtesy of Danny Briere, who was carrying the puck over his line and into the neutral zone as if he had not a care in the world, at least until Ovechkin picked him clean. Braydon Coburn was left to try to chase Ovechkin down, but all he could do was try to hang on for dear life as Ovechkin barreled in on Emery. Coburn managed to wrestle Ovechkin off the puck, and Dan Marouelli signaled for a penalty shot. Ovechkin – previously 0-for-5 in this situation – carried the puck in, feinted Emery one way, showed him the forehand, then swept the puck to his backhand, whereupon he roofed it over the sprawled Emery. A stat-padder goal by Danny Briere finished the scoring in the last 30 seconds for the final score.
-- 17:30 in ice time? After 17:50 against Toronto, Alex Ovechkin will think coach Bruce Boudreau is mad at him. It says something of the team’s depth at the moment that Ovechkin could skate so comparatively little time, yet the team has 11 goals in its last two games.
-- Oh, and do you like drama? Ovechkin scored on his 2,000th shot in the NHL -- on a penalty shot.
-- Laich’s two-goal performance makes 34 multi-goal games for the Caps this year.
-- Give the Flyers credit, they bottled up the Caps pretty well all afternoon. The Caps had only 46 total shot attempts (22 shots on goal).
-- Even though Jose Theodore gave up two goals in the first period, one of which he might have wanted back, his turning away 12 shots in the second period might have been the difference as the Caps took a lead. If that wasn’t, perhaps it was his turning away 10 of 11 power play shots for the game.
- In the game-within-a-game, it was interesting to watch Eric Fehr and Scott Hartnell go at it before faceoffs. Fehr did a pretty good job of egging Hartnell on with his stick. Of course, maybe it was a reminder that Hartnell’s running around engaging in some interesting stick work of his own wasn’t unnoticed.
-- Think the Flyers would like to unload that $6.5 million cap hit Danny Briere has? We do.
-- It’s one thing for a fourth line to be an “energy line.” We get that. But Ian Laperriere, Daniel Carcillo, and Blair Betts… no shots on goal. As a group they had only four attempts.
-- Jeff Schultz: 23:44 in ice time, even, a shot on goal, two hits, and three blocked shots. And still some moron on the post game was whining about him with a bad giveaway (it was Bradley’s giveaway, but hey…red sweaters look alike).
-- With a goal this afternoon, that’s five goals in three games for Mike Knuble. Kanoobie gets an extra Milk Bone tonight.
-- The difference between Tomas Fleischmann last year and Tomas Fleischmann this year… last year, if Flesichmann tried to hit Braydon Coburn, he would have bounced off. This year (this game), he was credited with the hit.
-- Hey, who’s that who led the Flyers in giveaways? Why, it’s the $6.25 million free agent defenseman. Oh, and Mike Green didn’t have any, in case you were wondering.
-- There are Flyer fans in attendance who seem to think it is a comeback to shout “two Stanley Cups, baby” as they are leaving the building with four minutes left. Actually, it’s pretty sad, because the only people who remember when the Flyers won a Cup now gum their food and wear extra-absorbent undergarments.
- If the only forwards finishing in plus territory for the Flyers are James van Riemsdyk, Darroll Powe, and Arron Asham, it’s a good night for the other guys.
-- The Caps outscored the Flyers for the season series, 22-13. They were 7-for-16 on the power play against the Flyers. You Caps fans who might have an inferiority complex concerning some teams? The Caps are better – you can sleep better in that knowledge.
-- Top line: 2-1-3. Second line: 3-3-6. Helps to spread things around.
-- It might not have been the score sheet buffet, but Alex Ovechkin helped himself to the hungry-man platter: a goal, an assist, four shots, three hits, three takeaways.
-- The Caps were 35-up and 30-down in the circle, but perhaps more important, they were 13-up and six-down in the defensive end.
-- One had the feeling (well, we had the feeling) that the Flyers sort of sacrificed this game to get Ray Emery back on the ice. He was, to be kind, bad. The Flyers had better hope it was rust.
Whether it’s a one-goal win, an 8-2 thwapping, or a score-every-which-way sort of game like this, it’s always good to send Flyers fans home sobbing into soggy cheese-steak buns. The Caps end one Pennsylvania series for the year (3-0-1 against the Flyers) and start another this Thursday against the Penguins. Let’s hope that one goes at least as well and is at least as satisfying.