A Tale of Three Periods – Tonight’s Caps/Flyers game was a classic; too bad the millions who had the Versus network removed from their Direct TV roster missed out on this one. Philadelphia prevailed 6-5 over Washington in overtime thanks to Danny Briere's game-winner on his 32nd birthday. It was a wild and woolly affair that didn’t start out that way.
After a scoreless first in which the Caps squandered three power play chances, the two teams traded goals in the second, with Philly coming out with a 4-3 lead after two. The Caps battled back to tie and take the lead in the third, but lost the special teams battle late. The Flyers tied it at 5-5 on Scott Hartnell’s fluky power play goal with 4:15 remaining, then dodged a bullet when the Caps were unable to convert a late power play that extended into the overtime session.
Although the Caps rebounded from a third-period deficit to collect a point in a tough road building, this was a winnable game and they know it. Facing the Philly power play nine times is never a recipe for success.
“I think you take eight minors in a game, and you’re not going to win a game,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Six in one period. That’s how four goals get scored against you, when you get six penalties in a period. That’s just not acceptable.”
Actually, the Caps were assessed nine minors in the game, and they were victimized for three power play goals by the Flyers. But a 10th minor went unassessed (in the box score, anyway) because the Flyers scored while goaltender Ray Emery was off for the extra attacker on a delayed penalty call.
The two newest Caps – veteran forwards Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison – had similar observations of the night from Washington’s viewpoint.
“We did well in the first,” says Knuble. “I thought we took over the game in the first, and then we got in penalty trouble in the second, and really our momentum went away. They had all the momentum.
“We came in after the second [period] talking about penalties. You can’t take penalties. And again we’re taking one with five minutes left or whatever. Those are the things you learn and we’ll learn that as a team here real fast that you’ve got to stay out of the box late. We got away with it for a lot of the game, and that could have been the difference. We kept getting the breaks to get back, but eventually that penalty cost us.”
Morrison concurred with his old college teammate.
“Tonight, we were our worst enemy,” says the Caps’ veteran center, whose third-goal looked like it might stand up as the game-winner for a while. “I thought we played pretty good in the first period. We started to come on in the second half and then we got into penalty trouble, gave them a lot of momentum. We came out and battled back in the third, had the lead, and it’s a game that we should seal down and win I think with that much time remaining in the game.
“Tonight, it was more penalties than anything. It wasn’t a matter of our system letting us down. It was our penalties. We just couldn’t stay out of the box, you know? And we gave up some power play goals.”
Although the Caps missed a chance to pick up two points against a tough conference foe, they did come back from a third-period deficit to collect a point.
“We got a point,” notes Boudreau. “Anytime you come from behind in the third period – and their tying goal was pretty fluky; I think we put it in our own net. We can’t afford to allow 10 goals in two games. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games, I don’t care who you have on your team.”
Triple Threat – With two goals and an assist on the night, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin became just the third player in NHL history to record three or more points in his team’s first three games of a season. He joins Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur (1975-76 Canadiens) and Peter Stastny (1982-83 Nordiques) in that rarefied NHL air.
It is the first time in Ovechkin’s career that he has recorded three or more points in as many as three straight games.
Ovechkin now has 16 goals in 17 regular season games against the Flyers. Philadelphia has held him without a goal in just four of those 17 contests.
Torrid Trio – The threesome of Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich has totaled 12 goals this season on 41 shots on goal for a white-hot shooting pct. of 29.3. The rest of the Capitals have combined for three goals on 56 shots on goal for a shooting pct. of 5.4.
Nick at Night – Nicklas Backstrom has now notched at least an assist in each of his last seven regular season games. He has 14 helpers during that span. Backstrom has eight assists in the first three games of the 2009-10 season.
Dennis Maruk, you are on notice. Your single-season franchise standard of 76 assists set back in 1981-82 might come under assault this season.
Streaking – Laich had an assist in Tuesday’s game to run his scoring streak to five straight regular season games, dating back to the end of last season. He has six goals and nine points in those five games. Laich has seven goals and 18 points in his last 11 regular season games.
Two Fer – Washington’s Matt Bradley picked up a pair of assists on Tuesday, his first points of the season. It was Bradley’s first two-assist game since he recorded a pair of helpers in Washington’s 7-1 win at Toronto on Oct. 29, 2007.
Bradley also dropped the gloves with Philly’s Ian Laperriere on Tuesday, leaving him a goal shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight in same game), a feat he has accomplished with each of his previous NHL employers (San Jose and Pittsburgh).
Ouch – After allowing just two goals in their first five periods of hockey (100 minutes) this season, the Capitals have now surrendered nine tallies in their last four periods plus the 3:52 worth of overtime (83:52) they played against the Flyers on Tuesday.
Tough Night – Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov gave up four goals – all in the second period – on 25 shots in 33:59 of work before being pulled in favor of Jose Theodore. Varlamov avoided being tagged with a loss – he still has not suffered a regulation loss in the regular season during his NHL career – but he has given up goals in bunches in two consecutive starts and now sports an unsightly .857 save pct. and a 5.11 GAA for the season.
“I thought there were some soft goals in there,” asserts Boudreau. “Varly’s got to be mentally tougher to play. One thing that’s reared its – for want of a better term – ugly head right now is that they score in bunches on him.
“He can be fabulous for two periods in Buffalo [in the preseason], and then they score three in the third. He can be great against the Leafs [in the home opener last Saturday] and then they get three in the third. The same thing with the Rangers [in the preseason finale], three in the third. I think he gets down on himself and we’ve got to get him out of that.”
Varlamov is a good goaltender, but he’s also a young goaltender. Better nights are ahead.
Tough Night, II – The defensive duo of Tom Poti and John Erskine was on the ice for five of Philadelphia’s six goals on the night. That total included all three power play goals scored by the Flyers, as well as a Kimmo Timonen tally that came while the Flyers had an extra skater because of a delayed penalty. Tonight’s game marked the first time this season that the tandem of Poti and Erskine was used.
Nothing for 40 – Emery blanked the opposition for the first 40 minutes in each of his first two starts this season. He shut down the Caps for the first 20 minutes tonight, but got nicked for three goals in the middle frame.
Trailing – Heading into tonight’s contest, neither the Capitals nor the Flyers had trailed at any point in either of their first two games of the season. Philly scored first in this one, getting a Mike Richards power play goal at 1:37 of the second period.
Mad Hatter – Coming into Tuesday night’s game with the Capitals, Philadelphia captain Mike Richards had three career goals against Washington in 14 games. He notched a hat trick against the Caps here tonight, doubling his career goal total against Washington in the process.
Richards is the second Flyer in less than a year to victimize the Capitals with a hat trick. Hartnell scored three goals against Washington here in Philly on Dec. 20, 2008.
Helping Hands – Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle notched four primary assists on the Flyers’ first four goals of Tuesday night’s game. He now has a goal and seven points in six career games against the Capitals. Carle’s four-assist effort puts him in second place in the league in helpers for the season. He has five, three behind league-leading Backstrom.
Despite his four-assist night, Carle was not among the game’s three stars.
Phantom Assists – The AHL Philadelphia Phantoms left town after last season, but some phantoms must still be lurking in the area. Although Hartnell’s game-tying power play goal was an own goal that Washington put in its own net off Poti and then Theodore, the charitable hometown scorers saw fit to award a pair of assists (to Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen) on the play.
Quote of the Night – Morrison: “You’re going to have nights like that. But we have to learn this lesson quickly if we want to be a great team and not just a good team.”
By The Numbers – Ovechkin logged 8:44 in the first period. He skated 4:42 of the Caps’ 5:54 in first period power play time … The Caps won just five of 20 (25%) second period face-offs … Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with four blocked shots (in just 15:05 of work) in his first game of 2009-10 … The Capitals were credited with two hits in the final 23:52 of Tuesday’s game … Philadelphia finished with 41 shots on goal. The Caps allowed 40 or more shots on goal only twice all season in 2008-09, most recently in the final game of the campaign on April 11 when Florida poured 42 shots on the Washington goal in a 7-4 Panthers win.