Sometimes teams win games. Sometimes, they lose them. For the Washington Capitals it was the latter on Sunday afternoon as they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1. Let us explain.
The Flyers didn’t win as much as the Capitals lost, the Caps having recorded 21 missed shots among 51 shot attempts, scoring just once on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin. It was a case of the Caps spraying shot attempts anywhere but on net. Ovechkin had seven shot attempts, three misses. Troy Brouwer had three attempts, all misses. Brooks Laich, four attempts…three misses. Mike Green…three attempts, all misses. John Carlson…eight attempts, four misses.
As is was, the Caps managed only 14 shots on goal against two Flyer goaltenders, and they missed an opportunity to tie the Pittsburgh Penguins in standings points in the Metropolitan Division.
After a scoreless first period, the Flyers broke on top in the first minute of the second period when Mark Streit’s drive from the left point pinballed in and past goalie Braden Holtby. Ovechkin tied the game mid-way through the period just after a 5-on-3 advantage expired. He took a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov and wristed the puck past Ray Emery, who was in goal in relief of starter Steve Mason after Mason departed with a lower body injury.
The Flyers broke the tie less than four minutes into the third period on a goal by Wayne Simmonds, who beat Holtby to the far side from the left wing circle. The Caps could not get the equalizer, and Jakub Voracek potted an empty net power play goal in the last minute for the final 3-1 margin.
-- For the Caps it was the sixth time they had a chance to extend a winning streak to four games this season and the sixth time they failed to do so.
-- Ovechkin tied the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash with his 33rd goal of the season. It was his 17th goal in his last 19 games.
-- Fourteen shots on goal was the fewest in a game for the Caps since they managed only 12 shots on goal in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on March 18, 2011. It came within one shot on goal of a record at home, that being when the Caps had only 13 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 9, 1975.
-- Even with the miniscule shots on goal total, the Caps out-attempted the Flyers, 51-49.
-- Washington had six power play opportunities, the most they had since getting six chances in a 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus on December 11th and tying their high for the season.
-- The Caps managed only three shots on goal in 10:11 of power play ice time, none on either of the first two power plays.
-- Matt Niskanen had his one fight for the season when he took on Scott Laughton in the first period. Niskanen has now had one fighting major in each of the last four seasons. It was the extended result of Niskanen drilling Laughton on an open ice hit in the last meeting of these teams back on January 14th.
-- With an assist, Evgeny Kuznetsov has points in his last four games, a career high for a points streak.
-- The Caps almost made it all the way through the contest without allowing a Flyer power play goal. It was not until Tom Wilson took a boarding penalty with 1:13 left that the Caps found themselves shorthanded. With the Caps down a goal at the time, the timing could have been better.
-- That was the first time that Braden Holtby lost a game when allowing two or fewer goals since he lost a 2-1 decision to the Buffalo Sabres last November 22nd.
In the end…
The Caps just didn’t seem mentally prepared to play this game. Part of it might have been a desperate Flyers team looking to carve into a division rival's lead in standings points, but the Caps seemed a step behind throughout. Even when presented the opportunity of facing a backup goalie after Steve Mason had to bow out with an injury, the spark was not there. It happens over the course of an 82 game season, but the timing was not the best given that the Caps now head west for a three-game road trip in California and a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins before returning home in ten days. Given the crowding at the top of the Metropolitan Division at the moment, these were two points that the Caps should have pocketed but did not.