Thanks to NBC Sport’s prerogative in scheduling some games for television, Sunday’s Capitals game against the Flyers was pushed back to 7pm. Unfortunately, it seems as though the Caps didn’t get their afternoon naps, and while they started well, they could not sustain the necessary fortitude to grin out a victory against one of the East’s tougher teams, and fell to the Flyers, 1-0.
The Capitals came onto the ice in the first period with some noticeable snarl. The team was playing well, which was a relief to many after they were shellacked by the Devils on Friday night. The Caps forechecked well and were hitting the Flyers hard – Troy Brouwer drew the ire of Scott Hartnell for one particularly hard clean check, and the two fought to a draw at center ice.
However, as has been a bothersome trend of late, the Caps gave up a goal and just, well, gave up. Early in the second period, Eric Wellwood tipped a pass from Pavol Kubina and Matt Carle that found its way past Michal Neuvirth, who was stellar for the majority of the game. After the goal it looked like a completely different Capitals team was on the ice, one that wasn’t hurrying or attempting to win puck battles along the boards.
The Caps frustrations were evident during and after the game. In the second period, it appeared that Ovechkin had been benched by coach Dale Hunter after he missed a significant amount of playing time. But, after the game, Hunter downplayed the move, claiming that it was just an attempt to match lines
After the game, the mood in the locker room was subdued. The players that did choose to speak to the media all echoed the same sentiment: that while the game might have been an improvement over Friday night, it was still a loss that was ill-afforded. According to Troy Brouwer, “tonight was a tough way to lose, but we still lost… at this point in the season a loss is a loss.”
The loss leaves the Caps in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point out of a playoff spot and five points behind the division-leading Florida Panthers. The Caps face a crucial two games this week against divisional foes Carolina and Tampa (who are only one point back of the Capitals).