The Caps carried their resurgent power play and a two-game winning streak into last night’s game against Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. But they came undone through a combination of Philadelphia muscle and poor goaltending. A series of soft shots and deflections got past starting goalie Tomas Vokoun as the Caps fell to the Flyers 5-1.
In the first period, the Caps came out looking like a different team than a month ago. With a disciplined approach they took the action to the Flyers, maintaining the puck in the offensive zone for most of the period with strong physical play. The aggressiveness paid off when the Caps drew two power play chances. But the Caps failed to shoot the puck on the man advantage and were unable to score on Flyers’ netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. The Caps lost the momentum, and tide turned.
The Flyers, meanwhile, shot the puck at every opportunity. Scott Hartnell put Philadelphia ahead 1-0 when he beat Tomas Vokoun between the legs on a clear shot from the top of the faceoff circle after 16 minutes. “I don’t think we had that kind of energy and emotion we had before,” said captain Alex Ovechkin of the first goal.
The Flyers owned the second period, winning battles in the corners and in the slot to gain possession and position. A routine shot from the point was tipped by a Washington player past Vokoun to make it 2-0. The Caps appeared to be playing short-handed for long stretches of play, bottled up in their own zone, unable to create any space. Another shot from the point found the back of the Caps’ net off a deflection by Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers made it 4-0 late in the period when Max Talbot beat Vokoun from 60 feet on an odd-man rush.
The third period started with a goalie change. Michael Neuvirth came in to replace the beleaguered Vokoun. The honeymoon did not last long as the Flyers scored on another long range shot. And the fans streamed out of the arena. Even the PA announcers seemd to thrown in the towel as they played retro music and organ tunes to muffle the chants of the Flyers fans.
Jeff Halpern finally spoiled Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout bid when he banged home the rebound on a Dennis Wideman slapshot with six minutes left in the game. Wideman has either scored or assisted on the Caps last five goals over a span of two full games.
- The Flyers were missing their two best players last night with defenseman Chris Pronger and NHL-leading scorer Claude Giroux nursing injuries.
- Alex Ovechkin had a rough night. He ran headfirst into Alexander Semin in the first period leading to some jaw rubbing on the bench. The Flyers repeatedly foiled him with simple poke checks. Finally, he was completely rubbed off the puck by Braydon Coburn, leading directly to the Flyers’ fourth goal by Talbot.
- The line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward were one of the few bright spots on the evening, shutting down the Flyers top unit and generating quality scoring chances.
So it is “two steps forward, one step back” with this team. The progress of the last several games was thrown into doubt when facing one of the better teams in the East. The early discipline the Caps showed last night crumbled as the Caps failed to execute new coach Dale Hunter’s man-to-man defense and strong forechecking system. “I think we lost the game in the second period,” said Ovechkin after the game. “We didn’t have any opportunity to turn around the game.”
The Caps will will travel to Winnipeg Thursday and Colorado Saturday before returning to Verizon Center next Tuesday against the Nashville Predators. Here is the Caps upcoming schedule. Click here to find tickets to upcoming games.