Sunday, March 02, 2014

Washington Capitals: A ONE point afternoon -- Game 62: Flyers 5 - Capitals 4 (OT)

And that, dear reader, is called “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

The Washington Capitals seemed to have things safely in hand this afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center.  The Caps dominated the first period, taking a 2-1 lead 14 minutes into the game and carrying that to the first intermission.  In the second period, despite being outshot 14-9, the Caps won the period by another 2-1 margin, carrying a 4-2 lead into the third period.

All the Caps had to do in the third period was play with poise and not be stupid.

They did neither.  The Flyers scored twice in the last 8:02 of the game to tie the score, one of the goals coming on a major power play, courtesy of Dmitry Orlov’s major boarding penalty against Brayden Schenn, the other goal coming with just 65 seconds in regulation after the Flyers pulled their goalie. 

Then, 2:45 into the extra session, Vincent Lecavalier put the Caps out of their misery with what would have been a harmless enough wrist shot except for apparently nicking defenseman Karl Alzner on the way through.  It was just enough to allow the puck to elude goalie Braden Holtby’s glove, and a game that looked to be in the bank for the Caps at 2:30 p.m. was a loss by 3:30, a 5-4 Flyers overtime win.

It was an especially cruel turn of events for Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who got the Caps going with a goal 6:06 into the first period.  After some relentless forechecking pressure, then puck control by the Caps in the Flyers’ end, Troy Brouwer laid the puck back for Orlov from behind the Flyers’ goal line, and Orlov stepped into a slap shot that beat goalie Steve Mason on the far side, high over his blocker.

After Claude Giroux tied the game five minutes later, it was Marcus Johansson’s turn, this time darting in from the weak side of the play to the top of the crease to redirect a centering feed from Jason Chimera over Mason’s right pad.  That was the way the first period would end.

In the second period, Adam Hall scored a shorthanded goal at 12:50 after a ghastly turnover by Alex Ovechkin.  With the puck sliding deep into the Caps’ end of the ice, Ovechkin misread the intentions of teammate John Carlson trailing him and to his left.  Ovechkin left the puck for Carlson at the side of the Washington net to Holtby’s right, but not with enough sauce for the puck to get to Carlson, who had circled wider than Ovechkin seemed to anticipate.  The misstep was enough for Sean Couturier to gather the puck as he was circling around the net from the other direction, beating Carlson to the biscuit.  Continuing up the left wing wall Couturier found Hall skating down the middle and hit him for what would be an uncontested shot from the high slot that Hall fired past Holtby.

Jay Beagle got that one back less than two minutes later by finishing up a 3-on-2 break.  Mike Green had the puck skating down the right side, and when Claude Giroux mistimed a slide to try to interrupt a Green pass to the middle, the puck found its way into a clot of bodies in front of Mason.  It popped out to Mason’s right where Beagle was by himself.  With not much less than an empty net to shoot at, Beagle capitalized, and the Caps had a 3-2 advantage.

Less than three minutes later, Orlov notched his second of the game.  He and Mike Green played catch with the puck at the top of the Flyers’ zone as the play unwound.  Having stepped around Steve Downie to give himself room once already in the sequence, Orlov took a return pass from Green and took advantage of Downie having backed in on defense.  Orlov let it rip from the top of the zone, and with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera causing havoc in front of the Flyers’ net, Mason never saw the shot as it sped by him to give the Caps a two-goal lead.

It would be the most dangerous lead in hockey, it turns out, at least on this day. A great day for Orlov turned sour when he lined up Brayden Schenn and hit him in the nameplate on the back of his jersey, driving him into the boards, resulting in a five-minute major.  The Flyers scored only once on the extended power play, a goal by Jakub Voracek, but the momentum the Caps had was gone.  It would be the Flyers who dominated late, eventually scoring the last three goals of the contest to steal two points that the Caps thought they had safely tucked away.

Other stuff…

-- Yes, Claude Giroux’ goal was a goal, it rimmed around the top inside post of the goal; it did not hit a pipe or the crossbar.  As for the disallowed goal off the stick of Nicklas Backstrom at the other end, that was purely a case of the default call – that being “no goal” called on the ice – lacking conclusive evidence to overturn it.  Good teams shrug those sorts of thing off.

-- Orlov took his boarding call at the 9:33 mark of the third period.  After that point the Flyers outshot the Caps over the rest of the game by a 13-0 margin, scoring three goals in the process.  The Capitals did not record a shot on goal over the last 14:52 of the contest. 

-- The Caps dominated the first period, outshooting the Flyers, 17-6, and out-attempting them, 32-14.  After that, the Flyers outshot the Caps, 30-12, and out attempted them by an almost unbelievable 62-20 margin.

-- Washington was 0-for-6 on the power play.  That matches their worst output at home this season, an 0-for-6 power play in a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders on February 4th.

-- On the other side, it was the third straight game in which the Caps allowed at least one power play goal.  The Flyers went 2-for-4, including the Voracek goal on the extended power play.

-- Alex Ovechkin had ten shot attempts in the first 18:06 of the game (five shots on goal, two misses, three shots blocked).  He had five shot attempts over the final 44:39 (one shot on goal, three misses, one blocked shot).

-- It was a bad afternoon for the top defensive pair.  Karl Alzner was on ice for three goals against, John Carlson for four.  For good measure, Ovechkin was on ice for three goals against to lead, so to speak, the forwards.  Oddly enough, the third pair – John Erskine and Connor Carrick – was not on ice for any goals against.

-- Mike Green had his first three-assist game since getting three helpers in a 7-4 win over Ottawa on Feburary 1, 2009.

-- For Dmitry Orlov, it was the first two-goal game of his career in his 100th NHL game.  Geez, did it have to be a major penalty to undo what should have been a memorable game… in a good way?

-- Until Orlov’s major penalty, it looked as if Steve Downie might end up being the Flyers’ goat for the game… four minor penalties taken in barely ten minutes of ice time.  Had the Caps converted any of those power play chances…

In the end…

That is where the problem lies in this game, the ineffectiveness of the power play, not Orlov’s major.  The Caps had three power plays in the first period, giving them a chance to end the competitive portion of the afternoon early.  As it was, the Caps allowed the Flyers to sneak out of what was, for them, a poor first period down only a single goal.

The Caps let the Flyers off the hook, and then when confronted with adversity in the third period by Orlov’s penalty, they folded.  It just does not seem to be in this team’s DNA to be able to either: a) stand on an opponent’s throat with a ruthless attitude toward closing them out, or b) being able to stand up forcefully when a team makes a run.  For 20 minutes the Caps looked like a team that might be turning the corner, a team that might be making that late-season rush that they need to make to reach the playoffs.  For 40 minutes and change after that, they looked like what they have looked like too much this season, an aimless, uninspired club.  It was another game, another standings point given away in a season full of them.

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