Five Straight – Just over 18 months have elapsed since the Capitals and Flyers hooked up in a compelling and competitive seven-game playoff series during the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. The two meetings between the Caps and Flyers this season have been nearly as action-packed and thrilling as postseason contests tend to be, as tonight’s game illustrated. The Caps spotted Philly a 2-0 lead before rebounding with four unanswered strikes to take a 4-2 win.
The victory was Washington’s fifth in succession, matching the team’s third-longest winning run in the Bruce Boudreau era. The Caps won seven straight to close out the 2007-08 campaign and won seven in a row in December and January of last season.
“I think it was two teams that really wanted to win,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “It was very competitive. When they outworked us, they had a 2-0 lead and I thought in the second half of the second we outworked them. We tied it up and got a lucky goal in the third and we hung on.
“They kept coming. They’re a good team.”
Philadelphia won the first meeting between the two teams exactly three weeks earlier, a 6-5 seesaw ride that ended on Danny Briere’s overtime goal. The Flyers scored three power play goals in nine extra-man chances in that Oct. 6 game, and they added another with an extra skater on a delayed penalty.
Tonight’s tilt looked somewhat similar for a while. The two teams played through a scoreless first period for the second time in as many games, and then the Caps got into some penalty trouble in the second. Philly scored twice on the power play in three extra-man chances in the middle frame to take a 2-0 lead.
In between the two Flyer goals, Washington failed to cash in a lengthy (1:41) 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Less than a minute after Washington’s failed 5-on-3 bid, Braydon Coburn’s bomb from the point found its way through a screen to give Philly its 2-0 lead.
Nicklas Backstrom made a sublime play with his stick to set up Alex Ovechkin’s 10th of the season at 16:08 of the second, halving the Philly lead. Then, with the Flyers’ Mika Pyorala off for holding, Backstrom one-timed a feed from Alexander Semin through Philly goaltender Ray Emery to even the score with less than two minutes remaning in the period.
Semin, back in the lineup after missing the last two games, rifled one off Kimmo Timonen’s shin pad and into the upper corner of the cage on Emery’s stick side for the game-winner at 5:24 of the second.
Theo Stands Tall – Caps goalie Jose Theodore was rock solid in the Washington goal, stopping 41 of the whopping 43 shots he faced, including all 20 he saw in the third period. Included among those third-period shots was a penalty shot stop on Philly’s Darroll Powe, Theodore’s sixth stop on eight career penalty shots. That save on Powe was a huge one, coming just 83 seconds after the Caps had taken the lead for the first time.
That total of 43 shots on goal is the most Theodore has seen as a Capital; his career high is 47 in a game. In his last five starts, Theodore is 2-1-1 with a 2.04 GAA and a .939 save pct.
“I felt pretty good,” says Theodore. “I’ve been feeling pretty much the same way since the first game. Sometimes you just have to do a bit more. It doesn’t mean that on a 20-save night I don’t feel as good. I think the guys played really well clearing the puck and I was able to challenge the shooters which is a big part of my game. They did a great job of clearing away rebounds.”
Among all NHL goaltenders with at least three games played this season, Theodore’s .922 save pct. ranks third in the league. His 2.47 GAA is 10th in the NHL among goalies with three or more games.
Hardhat – With a Swedish television station in attendance and chronicling his efforts, Backstrom enjoyed a four-point night. He was also plus-3 in 19:45 of work, and he earned the game’s No. 2 star designation as well as the hardhat from his teammates.
Backstrom now has three goals and 15 points in 11 games on the season. He has climbed back into the NHL’s top 10 scorers (tied for seventh).
Flyer Killers – Back on Nov. 23, 2007, Backstrom netted an overtime game-winner against the Flyers to propel the Caps to victory in Bruce Boudreau’s first game as an NHL coach. Backstrom had a goal and three points against Philly in that game.
After tonight’s four-point performance against Philadelphia, Backstrom now has four goals and 16 points and is plus-8 in 10 career games against the Flyers.
Ovechkin’s two goals tonight give him 18 in as many career regular season games against Philadelphia. His average of a goal per game against the Flyers is his best against any Eastern Conference opponent. He has scored 15 goals in 16 career games against both Ottawa and Toronto.
Quick Comebacks – Only twice this season the Caps have been down by as much as a pair of goals. Neither time did they remain down for long.
On Saturday night against the Islanders in New York, the Caps were in a 2-0 third-period hole for 2:18 before Mike Green got the Caps on the board. Keith Aucoin tied it later, and Brooks Laich supplied the game-winner a minute into overtime.
Tonight, Washington trailed by two for just 99 seconds before Ovechkin got the Caps on the board.
11 For 8 – Ovechkin leads the NHL with 11 goals, 10 even-strength goals and 14 even-strength points. He has 11 goals in 11 games. Last season, he needed 20 games in which to score his first 11 goals of the season.
Six Pack – Caps defenseman Mike Green did a great job of irritating Flyers irritant Scott Hartnell tonight, and Green also chipped in with an assist on Semin’s goal. The helper extended Green’s scoring streak to six straight games (two goals, five assists). It is the longest scoring streak by a Capital this season and it matches the longest run by an NHL defenseman this season.
Green was also plus-3 on the night and he blocked five Philadelphia shots to pace the Caps.
Your Turn – Washington and Philadelphia have alternated wins over their last 11 regular season meetings with the Capitals winning the odd-numbered games and the Flyers taking the even-numbered ones.
Shooting Gallery – The Flyers fired 41 shots on the Washington goal when the two teams met in Philly on Oct. 6. They launched 43 shots tonight, marking the fourth consecutive game in which they had at least 38 shots on goal.
Late Woes – Philadelphia defensemen Timonen and Coburn have had some difficulties late in games this season. Timonen was a minus-2 in the third period tonight and is minus-7 in the third period of games this season. Coburn is minus-6 in the third in 2009-10.
It’s A Shame About Ray – Emery has a sparkling .950 first-period save pct. this season, allowing just four goals on 80 shots in the first frame. He has an .885 save pct. (20 goals on 174 shots) for the final two periods and overtime.
With Tuesday’s loss to the Caps, Emery’s record at Verizon Center drops to 1-4 with a 3.51 GAA and an .881 save pct.
This Day in NHL History – Two Hockey Hall of Famers potted their first NHL goals on this date in 1973. New York Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin netted the first of his 310 career goals in the league when he scored for the Fishermen against the rival New York Rangers.
On the same night, Montreal’s Bob Gainey notched the first of his 239 NHL goals when he scored against the Minnesota North Stars.
Happy Birthday – To Caps assistant general manager Brian MacLellan, born on this date in 1958.
By The Numbers – Brian Pothier skated 7:27 in the first period of Tuesday’s game, accounting for nearly half of his total of 15:49 on the night … Shaone Morrisonn landed three hits on Flyers skaters in the first frame … Philadelphia teed up a whopping 82 shots on the night. Forty-three of them were on goal, 20 were blocked and 19 missed the mark.
1 - 0 PHI
James van Riemsdyk
2 - 0 PHI
2 - 1 PHI
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
Too many men/ice - bench
Interference on goalkeeper