March 4 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: NBCSN Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap at 2 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 5:00 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 5:00 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com.
Philadelphia Flyers (35-21-7)
Washington Capitals (32-27-5)
The Philadelphia Flyers hit the District on Sunday for the middle match of Washington’s five-game homestand. The Capitals have split the first two games of the stretch, downing the New York Islanders in overtime on Tuesday and suffering a 5-0 shutout at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg set aside all 23 Washington shots he faced and New Jersey winger Zach Parise notched a hat trick to lead he opposition attack in Friday’s loss. It marked the first time in more than six years that an opposing team had a goaltender with a shutout and a skater with a hat trick in the same game at Verizon Center against the Capitals.
The Caps played well for the first half of the first period, but were unable to muster any sort of a comeback after allowing three goals on six shots in less than seven minutes over the latter half of the first frame against New Jersey.
“When you’re down by a couple [goals],” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer, “you have to keep playing hard. You can’t just pack it in and you can’t look forward to the next game. You have to build off the last part of your game and take that over into the next game. We would have liked to tighten it up, show a little bit more determination and a little bit more pride in the last period there, create some opportunities and feel good about ourselves going into our next game.”
For the fifth time this season and the first time on home ice, Washington surrendered three or more first-period goals in Friday night’s loss to the Devils. Two New Jersey goals late in the first put Washington into a 3-0 hole heading into the game’s second period.
“Those games where we give up goals late in the period are killers,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward. “We could have been maybe down 2-0 going into the second and who knows what happens after that? But it is what it is. It’s one of those days where you’ve got to put it behind you and move on to the next game. It’s fortunate that we’ve got another chance to redeem ourselves.”
For the fourth time in the team’s last 10 games, the Capitals surrendered a shorthanded goal on Friday against the Devils. The Caps are 2-for-34 (5.9%) on the power play in those same 10 games and they’ve been outscored on special teams 21-7 in their last 21 games.
Washington’s power play is 6-for-68 (8.8%) and has allowed five shorthanded goals over a span of 21 contests since the middle of January. Overall, the Capitals have been outscored by a combined total of 21-7 on special teams in their last 21 games. The Caps are 8-10-3 during that stretch.
“Special teams is what a lot of the playoff games come down to,” notes Ward. “If you don’t score goals on the power play, that’s a killer. And if you’re giving up goals on the penalty kill, that’s even more of a killer.
“You definitely have to bear down whenever you’re out there. You just can’t give up shorthanded goals at this stage of the game. The power play has to generate some chances, and if they don’t score at least generate some momentum. I think that’s going to be key. Everyone is realistically not expected to score on every shot on the power play, but just to pin them down in their own zone and wear them down is key.
“We can’t be giving up shorthanded [goals]. Those are just killers. The combination of that and [giving up] late goals at the end of the periods is tough to swallow.”
The Caps defeated the Flyers in Philadelphia on Oct. 20 for the sixth of their seven straight wins at the outset of the 2011-12 season. The Flyers returned the favor at Verizon Center on Dec. 13, trouncing the Caps by a 5-1 count.
“It doesn’t get any easier for us,” says Brouwer. “We’ve got Philly [on Sunday], we’ve got Boston next week, we’ve got a lot of tough games. Our schedule is not very easy. We’ve got to find ways to win and ways to win against good hockey teams.”
Michal Neuvirth’s three-game winning streak in the Washington nets came to a halt on Friday against the Devils. He played the full 60 minutes and was dented for five goals on just 20 New Jersey shots on net.
Tomas Vokoun has a lower body injury and was unable to practice with his Caps teammates on Saturday. If he is unable to perform in Sunday’s game against the Flyers, the Caps will need to recall a goaltender from their AHL Hershey affiliate.
The Flyers are tied for third in the NHL’s Atlantic Division and tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers are coming in well-rested; they were last in action on Thursday when they authored a 6-3 home ice win over the Islanders.
After winning seven straight games at the start of December, Philadelphia hit its high-water mark of the season when it sat at 26-12-4 in mid-January.
On Sunday in Washington, Philadelphia will be seeking its first pair of consecutive victories in more than a month. The Flyers won consecutive road games at Carolina and at Long Island on Jan. 10-12, and they’ve merely treaded water since. Philly is just 9-9-3 in its last 21 contests.
From Jan. 21-Feb. 5, the Flyers had a stretch in which they scored at least one power play goal in each of seven straight games. They were 10-for-33 (30.3%) with the extra man during that span. Since then, the Flyers are 6-for-38 (15.8%) with the man-advantage over a span of 11 games.