The Washington Capitals snapped a two-game losing streak on Wednesday night, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. With the win, the Caps became the first team in the NHL to reach the 40-win mark.
Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring for the Caps in the game’s seventh minute. T. J. Oshie was able to peel the puck off the right wing wall and away from two Flyers to Backstrom skating into the right wing circle. Then, using defenseman Radko Gudas as a screen, Backstrom snapped a shot past goalie Michal Neuvirth, off the crossbar, and in to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later, the Caps worked the puck around the perimeter of the Flyer zone to Evgeny Kuznetsov on the right side. Kuznetsov stepped up and wristed a shot from the faceoff dot over Neuvirth’s left shoulder and in on a the short side to make it 2-0 at the 16:28 mark.
The Flyers halved the lead early in the second period when Brayden Schenn redirected a Brandon Manning drive from the left point past goalie Braden Holtby. The Caps restored their two-goal lead when Kuznetsov got his second goal of the game late in the period. Taylor Chorney smartly moved the puck up to Justin Williams exiting the Capitals’ zone. Skating the puck down the right side and into the Flyers’ end, Williams sent the puck across to Kuznetsov for a one-timer that appeared to surprise Neuvirth, sailing past him at the 17:59 mark to make it 3-1.
Oshie capped the scoring in the third period. Alex Ovechkin started the scoring sequence by picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone and sending it across to Nicklas Backstrom in front of the players benches. Backstrom skated the puck into the Flyers end and fed Ovechkin cutting to the net. Pulling the puck to his backhand, Ovechkin tried to sneak the puck around Neuvirth but was foiled. Oshie followed up and stuffed the puck in to make it 4-1 at the 14:43 mark.
-- All three members of the top line – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie – finished with multi-point games. It was Backstrom’s 16th multi-point game of the season and the 14th for Oshie and Ovechkin.
-- Justin Williams also had a multi-point game. His assist on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s first goal of game was his 400th career assist in the NHL. He added another assist on Kuznetsov’s second goal for good measure.
-- In allowing just one goal on 34 shots, Braden Holtby’s goals against average for the season dipped under 2.00, and his save percentage climbed to .927. There are three goalies in the league who have played more than 750 minutes, have a GAA under 2.00, and have a save percentage better than .925. The Caps have two of them – Holtby (1.99/.927) and Philipp Grubauer (1.98/.932). Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is the other (1.96/.934).
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had his second two-goal game of the season, the first coming in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on January 26th. In the 2017 portion of the season, Kuznetsov is now 11-17-28, plus-15, in 24 games. Only four players in the league have more points than Kuznetsov since January 1st.
-- One of those players is Nicklas Backstrom who, with his two-point night, is leading the league in scoring since January 1st (9-24-33, plus-13, in 24 games).
-- With his two point night, Alex Ovechkin is tied for sixth in the league in scoring since January 1st (10-16-26, plus-9), and his 16 assists is tied for tenth in that span.
-- Taylor Chorney recorded an assist in his first game since January 26th. That point is the first one Chorney recorded in a road win this season.
-- The Caps were a dismal 22-for-65 on faceoffs (33.8 percent). No Capital taking a faceoff managed as much as 50 percent, and only Evgeny Kuznetsov (no, that’s not a typo) was over 40 percent (5-for-12/41.6 percent).
-- The Flyers rode three waves – to start the game, mid-way through the second period, and over the last ten minutes of the contest – to a 54-46 edge in shot attempts at 5-on-5 (numbers from Corsica.hockey). The second line of Kuznetsov, Williams, and Marcus Johansson took it in the teeth, going a minus-12 in shots attempts at fives.
-- John Carlson wins the all-you-can-eat buffet coupon. In 27:37 of ice time, he had an assist, was plus-2, led the team with five shots on goal, had nine total shot attempts, a hit, two giveaways, a takeaway, and two blocked shots.
In the end…
It was not the sort of game the Caps were playing before the bye week, but there was a sense of things coming together after the layoff. Faceoffs and possession were an issue in this game, but of more immediate concern is the injury to Matt Niskanen that limited him to just over ten minutes of ice time for the game. His “lower body injury” will be re-evaluated on Thursday. It is the latest in a series of incidents that has tested the Caps’ depth and could necessitate the call-up of recently acquired Tom Gilbert as the Caps head into a set of back-to-back games this weekend.