The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers renewed their I-95 rivalry on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. When the ice chips settled, and the final horn blared, the Caps had a 5-3 win and were once more in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The Caps escaped the first four minutes without allowing a goal, quite an achievement these days. That bit of stinginess was rewarded in the sixth minute as Alex Ovechkin stepped around a defender, corralled a sliding puck, and from a knee found Tom Wilson at the doorstep for a redirection of the puck past goalie Brian Elliott’s right pad to make it 1-0.
The Flyers got a power play a few minutes later, but they failed to convert, and that would come back to bite them late in the period. Brett Connolly caught up with a long feed from Carl Hagelin just inside the Flyers’ blue line and skated in through the left wing circle. With defenseman Travis Sanheim trying to angle him off a direct line to the net, Connolly wrong-footed a shot that might have clipped the shaft of Sanheim’s stick only slightly, but perhaps enough to send it tumbling toward Elliott. The puck floated over Elliott’s glove and at first was ruled to have hit the crossbar, but on further review was found to have struck the goal-cam at the back of the net and bounced out. The Caps had a 2-0 lead, 14:16 into the period. That would be how the teams went to the first intermission.
-- The Caps out-shot the Flyers, 15-7 in the period, and they out-attempted them, 31-13.
-- All six Caps defensemen recorded at least one shot on goal, and as a group they had eight of the 15 shots on goal.
-- Washington won just two of 12 faceoffs in the period (16.7 percent), Lars Eller getting both wins (on four faceoffs taken).
The Caps made short work of chasing Elliott in the second period. On a power play, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom in his office without a defender within a zip code of him, and it gave him a chance to ease in and rifle a shot through Elliott’s pads to make it 3-0, 2:32 into the period.
Less than two minutes later, Andre Burakovsky collected the puck at the Flyer blue line, skated into the left wing circle, and snapped a shot off the near post and behind Elliott to make it 4-0 at the 4:18 mark. That would be all for Elliott for this evening.
Cam Talbot hardly fared better to open his stint in net. He was victimized on the first shot he faced, the product of Jakub Vrana’s speed. Taking an indirect pass from Nick Jensen, he hustled down the left side. In too deep for a shot attempt, he skated around the Flyer net and found Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot. Backstrom pounded the puck past Talbot before he could set himself, and it was 5-0, Caps, 5:42 into the period.
That would be how the score remained into the last minute of play in the period. But Philippe Myers scored with 12 seconds left, his first in the NHL, wiring a shot off the post on goalie Braden Holtby’s glove side and in to make it 5-1 at the second intermission.
-- The Caps scored three goals on three shots in a span of 3:10 to open the period.
-- Nick Jensen recorded his first point as a Cap on the Backstrom goal.
-- Philly more than doubled up on the Caps in hits through two periods, 20-9. That’s what happens when you don’t have the puck.
-- The Caps out-shot the Flyers, 11-9 for the period, although the Flyers had the edge in shot attempts, 19-15.
-- The Flyers had 20 hits and 20 faceoff wins through two periods, the Caps were nine and seven.
It took the Flyers ten seconds to make it a 5-2 game, Claude Giroux finishing a feed from Oskar Lindblom from the low slot. Seven minutes later, it was 5-3, courtesy of a Scott Laughton deflection of an Andrew MacDonald shot down and between Holtby’s pads. And just like that, the Caps’ issues with third periods appeared once more.
The Caps buckled down and wrapped things up after that, though, as the Flyers could get no closer. The Caps were back on top in the Metropolitan Division.
-- Braden Holtby’s win was his 250th in the NHL, and became the second fastest goalie to reach that mark in league history. Ken Dryden did it in 381 games, Holtby in his 409th.
-- Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist to give him 1,199 career points.
-- Ovechkin’s goal was his 46th, the tenth time he reached that mark. Since he came into the league, it is as many 46-plus goal seasons as the next six players combined, and none of that group has more than two.
-- Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov each finished plus-3, the second time for Niskanen this season and the third time for Orlov. For both players, all of their instances have been on the road.
-- Orlov had two assists, his second multi-point game in his last four contests after going 43 games without one.
-- Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for his 15th multi-point game of the season. It is the 11th time in 12 seasons he has had at least 15 multi-point games in a season. Only in the abbreviated 2012-2013 season did he come up short (13).
-- Jakub Vrana was the only Capital not to record a shot on goal. Nick Jensen led the team with five.
-- The Caps won only 14 of 46 faceoffs (30.4 percent). That was still better than the first time these teams met, when the Caps won 19 of 64 draws (29.7 percent).
-- Tom Wilson’s goal was his third in five games. He has four in seven games, and five in his last ten contests.
-- The Caps out-attempted Philadelphia, 64-54.
In the end…
One would like to think that the letdown that started late in the second period is just a case of a good team easing off in a regular season game. But this has been an issue all season, and it remains to be seen whether the Caps can just flip a switch and be a shutdown team over the last 20 minutes when they need to be. For the moment, though, the Caps did take care of business in the end, getting the win and regaining the division lead. It is hard to be too upset with a team bringing a five-game winning streak back home after sweeping a three-game road trip against three division rivals. Well, maybe just a little upset.