Shot Down – The Caps came into Tuesday’s game feeling pretty good about themselves. Winners of two straight and three of their last four, they were seeking to put together their first three-game winning streak since the seven-game run that started the 2011-12 season.
It wasn’t going to be easy, and the Capitals knew it. Washington was going up against a Philadelphia team that entered the game as the top team in the Eastern Conference, and the Flyers were also riding a five-game winning streak.
Make it six.
The Flyers drubbed the Capitals 5-1 on Tuesday, roaring out to a 5-1 lead before Washington broke Flyers’ goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout spell with Jeff Halpern’s late strike in the third period.
From the net on out, it was not Washington’s night.
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun was given the last 20 minutes off after he permitted four goals on just 21 shots. Two came on deflections, and two were shots he absolutely should have stopped.
“We all know [Vokoun] would like a couple back and he knows it,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter, “everybody knows it. One was tipped out of the air, just tipped and lucky it went in. That’s the game of hockey. You’ve got to tip pucks and they did.”
Scott Hartnell started the scoring for Philly by threading a dribbler between Vokoun’s pads with 3:44 left in the first. The Caps had played reasonably well to that point, playing well defensively and drawing a pair of power plays in which they generated little in the way of scoring threats.
Vokoun made a couple of strong stops early in the second, but the Flyers padded their lead when Marc-Andre Bourdon’s shot deflected off the stick of Caps center Mathieu Perreault and into the Washington net.
Wayne Simmonds deflected one in from the slot late in the second, and then Max Talbot administered the dagger with a shot that glanced off the left side of Vokoun’s upper body and popped into the cage behind him, a goal that sealed the Capitals’ fate with 2:27 left in the second period.
Even if Vokoun hadn’t let the two ugly goals in, Washington still had problems. Its defense wasn’t tight enough in its own end; the Flyers were constantly buzzing the Washington crease and had the Caps hemmed in for lengthy stretches of time.
“They’re a good team,” says Caps center Jeff Halpern. “You can’t give them free chances. As soon as the team has the puck on the cycle, you’re going to spend some time in your end. Momentum is going to shift and you are going to spend more energy playing defense.
“We did a terrible job making any attempt to make plays to get the puck out. Not sprinting back to spots, not getting open for our partners, not getting into position and not making plays when we did.”
Offensively, the Caps generated very little in terms of quality scoring chances until the game was well out of reach in the third period. The Caps registered 17 shots on goal in the third after recording a combined total of 15 in the first 40 minutes.
The Caps also had a difficult time finding the mark when they did tee up the puck. Washington attempted 16 shots in the first, getting just five on net. It managed to find the mark 10 times on 21 tries in the second and 17 of 30 in the third. For the night, more of Washington’s shots went awry (35) than were directed at Bryzgalov (32).
“In the second period we had [five] shots on net,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “I think we lost the game in the second period. We didn’t have any opportunity to turn around the game. Only a couple of shifts at the end of the period were looking good.
The sooner this one if forgotten, the better. The Caps now head off on a two-game western trip to Winnipeg and Colorado later this week.
Positive Touch – Philadelphia led 4-0 after two periods, and 17 of the 18 Philly skaters had a plus rating in the plus/minus column at that stage of the contest. Only defenseman Kevin Marshall was even.
At night’s end, Marshall was the lone minus player for the Flyers, and 14 players had a plus next to their names.
Hammer Time – Caps winger Alexander Semin notched five hits on the night, the most he has had in any game since the start of the 2009-10 season, and possibly longer. The only other time in that span that Semin recorded more than three hits in a contest was during a 6-0 spanking at the hands of the New York Rangers on Feb. 25 of this year. He had four hits that night.
Semin was also a minus-3 in Tuesday’s game against the Flyers.
Familiar Spot – The Caps are now 3-4 since Hunter took over behind the Washington bench. Hunter is the third straight coach to take over for the Capitals in mid-season and watch his charges win three of their first seven games.
Glen Hanlon was 3-2-2 in his first seven games in December, 2003. Bruce Boudreau’s Capitals went 3-3-1 in his first seven contests four years ago.
Road Warriors – The Flyers are the league’s top road team; they now sport a spiffy 11-3-1 record outside of the City of Brotherly Love. The Flyers are 8-1-1 in their last 10 road games, and tonight’s tilt starts a stretch in which Philadelphia will play seven of its next eight games on the road.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps in ice time at 24:03 … Dennis Wideman launched 12 shots on net, getting a team-high five of them on net. He had four bids blocked and also missed the net three times … Braydon Coburn led the Flyers with four hits on the night … Matt Carle paced the Flyers with 25:27 in ice time. He and Bourdon were each a plus-3 on the night … Jakub Voracek led the Flyers with five shots on net.