It did not look good early for the Caps, who fell behind by a pair of goals before the game was eight minutes old. In the game’s second minute, the Flyers broke smartly out of their own end, Wayne Simmonds and Nolan Patrick on a 2-on-1 rush with a sluggish Caps defense left in the offensive end. Simmonds carried the puck on the left side into the Caps’ end and freezing defender Brooks Orpik fed Nolan Patrick, who pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped a shot past goalie Braden Holtby before Alex Ovechkin could close the distance on the back check. The Flyers had a 1-0 lead just 78 seconds into the game.
Travis Konecny made it 2-0 by following up a play. Sean Couturier carried the puck through the right wing circle and around defenseman Christian Djoos on his way to the Caps’ net. His attempt was muffled, but Djoos got tangled up with Holtby, and Konecny filled in behind Couturier to chip the puck past the fallen Holtby, and it was 2-0 just 7:50 into the first period.
Thunder struck twice for the Caps in the space of less than a minute early in the second period in the form of Chandler Stephenson. The first goal started with what looked like a harmless feed up ice that Stephenson moved into the offensive and around the end boards. Lars Eller picked up the puck in the Olympia corner ahead of Robert Hagg and sent it to the front of the net. Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not defend the feed well, the puck bouncing off his left pad and into the blue paint where Stephenson was lurking. He jammed it under Neuvirth, and the Caps were within a goal at the 2:14 mark of the period.
On his next shift, Stephenson tied the game. Madison Bowey collected a loose puck in the faceoff circle to the right of Holtby in the defensive end and sent a long lead pass to Stephenson streaking through the neutral zone. He took it in stride just outside the Flyers’ blue line, broke in alone on Neuvirth, and slipped it under his pads to tie the game 3:01 into the period and just 47 seconds after his first goal.
Eleven minutes later, the Caps had the lead for good. On a power play, Lars Eller controlled the puck along the right wing boards where Nicklas Backstrom usually camped out. He patiently worked his way down the boards while looking for a passing lane. He found one, sending the puck to the front of the net where Andre Burakovsky got inside position on Brandon Manning, redirecting the Eller feed past Neuvirth to make it 3-2, Caps, 14:32 into the second period.
Washington struck again on a power play in the sixth minute of the third period. The Caps worked the triangle play starting with John Carlson walking the puck inside the blue line at the top of the offensive zone. He fed Evgeny Kuznetsov inside the top of the right wing circle, from where he slid down to the bottom of the circle to find a better passing angle. He slid the puck across to T.J. Oshie between the hash marks for a one timer that beat Neuvirth cleanly to give the Caps a 4-2 lead 5:28 into the period.
Devante Smith-Pelly extended the lead less than four minutes later. Christian Djoos led the Caps on a gang rush into the offensive zone and fed the puck across to Jay Beagle at the top of the left wing circle. Beagle returned the puck to Djoos for a one-timer that nicked Smith-Pelly on the way through, the puck redirected just enough to elude Neuvirth at the 9:06 mark to make it 5-3.
Philadelphia got some window dressing a little over a minute later when Jakub Voracek redirected an Ivan Provorov drive at the 10:40 mark. But that would be as close as the Flyers would get, the Caps skating off with a 5-3 win.
-- The Caps closed January with a 6-2-2 record and reached the 30-win mark.
-- Andre Burakovsky broke a nine-game streak without a goal when he scored in the second period. It was his first goal on home ice this season in his 13th game at Capital One Arena. It was his first regular season goal on home ice in more than a year, since he potted one in a 5-0 win over the Flyers on January 15, 2017. He went 22 straight home games without a goal until his strike last night.
-- Chandler Stephenson scored on two consecutive shots on two consecutive shifts. The two shots – his only two for the game – tied a season high and doubled his goal total for the year.
-- Lars Eller had his second two-assist of the season and first at home. He had a pair of helpers in a 4-3 overtime win over the Stars in Dallas on December 19, 2017.
-- John Carlson had the other multi-point game for Washington, his sixth of the season. It was also his sixth two-assist game of the season.
-- The Caps spread the shots on goal around. Of their 25 shots, no Capital had more than two, but nine Capitals had that total.
-- They spread the points around, too. Ten skaters had at least one point.
-- This was the 16th time this season in which neither Alex Ovechkin nor Nicklas Backstrom recorded a point. It was the first time since December 12th that they did so in a Caps win (a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche), breaking a string of five losses in such games (0-2-3). Overall, the Caps are 4-9-3 in such games.
-- Rough night for the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson. They were on ice for the first and last Flyer goals to leave each with a minus-2 for the night. They did not have an even strength point (Kuznetsov had a power play assist), they combined for just five shots on goal, and they had 15 shot attempts, almost half of them by Wilson (seven). Nonetheless, despite being dominated early in the shooting statistics, the Caps finished with a 52-49 edge in shot attempts.
-- Odd Braden Holtby fact…this was the first time in his career that he allowed three or more goals to the Flyers and won. He had been 0-4-4 in such games before last night.
In the end…
It was not pretty, for the most part, and the Caps looked flat out sleepy at times, but a win is a win is a win. Getting the support from the secondary scorers, particularly Chandler Stephenson, who showed deft hands from in close, was welcome. Between that, and getting a couple of struggling players going – Andre Burakovsky and T.J. Oshie – the outcome was a plus, too. But falling behind by a pair of goals early is not a recipe for sustained success, especially against teams that do not have the goaltending issues the Flyers seem to have (Michal Neuvirth was returning after a bout of illness and felt woozy in the second period). Still, the losing streak was snapped, and the first game after the All-Star Game break was a success in the standings, the Caps maintaining their six-point lead in the Metropolitan Division. They get a chance to extend that lead over their nearest pursuer when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. They’d better be on their game.