April in January – From the opening face-off, today’s Caps-Flyers tilt had the feel of a playoff contest. The pace was quick, the intensity was high and the fans were engaged. Washington was better at going to the net and making things happen, and it prevailed 5-3 in an exciting contest.
Two Eastern Conference heavyweights traded body blows in the first 20 minutes. The Flyers got an early power-play goal from Jeff Carter and the Caps’ Mike Knuble answered 106 seconds later. Philadelphia regained the lead 87 seconds after ex-Flyer Knuble evened it, and the Caps responded again just over four minutes later when Brooks Laich scored to make it 2-2.
The squeaky clean Flyers faced just one Washington power play all afternoon, but the Caps made it count. Carter went off for holding Capitals defenseman Tyler Sloan at 6:57 of the second period. Eight seconds later, the Caps’ Alexander Semin deposited the puck behind Flyers goalie Ray Emery.
Washington nursed that 3-2 lead into the third, and Philly got a key opportunity early in the third when Sloan was whistled for roughing. But the Flyers got lazy in their own end of the ice, and Laich pounced on a lackadaisical drop pass from defenseman Matt Carle. The Caps’ forward scooped up the puck, skated in and roofed a backhander over Emery’s left shoulder to give Washington some breathing room.
Alex Ovechkin scored the first penalty shot goal of his goal late in the third to push the Washington lead to 5-2. A late Flyers power play goal was mere window dressing.
“Some of the early goals were tough,” laments Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “We missed an assignment and there was a rebound, back door. That hurt. There was one that hit a skate and went right to somebody; it’s tough to cover that.
“If we go into the third period tied, we might win it and get out of here with some points. We talked about it before the game. We can’t turn it over. [The Capitals] are dynamic in transition and you’ve really got to pay attention to the puck.”
All five Caps goals laid end-to-end wouldn’t have stretched much further than the hash marks.
The Cap-Bird’s Seat – Washington’s win was its 30th of the season, and it gives the Capitals a total of 66 points. The Caps now sit atop the Eastern Conference standings for the latest time ever in the franchise’s 35-year history.
Home Cooking – Sunday’s win pushes the Caps’ home ice record this season to 16-3-3. The Capitals have won four in a row at home and nine of their last 10 on District ice.
Four Score – For the seventh consecutive game, the Capitals have scored four or more goals. They concluded the 2008-09 season with seven straight games of four or more goals, too. Prior to that, the last time the Caps had seven straight games with four or more goals was March 11-25, 1993.
Shots Down – The Capitals had just 22 shots on goal in Sunday’s game, their lowest total in any game this season and their fewest in 110 regular season games. The last time Washington had fewer shots on a game was when it mustered just 21 in a 7-2 loss at San Jose on Nov. 22, 2008.
Multiple Men – Laich’s two-goal effort was his third of 2009-10 and the Capitals’ 34th in their 48 games this season. Nine different Caps have combined for those 34 two-goal games. Washington has yet to have a hat trick this season. It is one of five NHL teams without a three-goal game to date.
Short Stuff – Laich’s shorthanded goal against Philly was his first shorty of the season and the seventh of his career. He has had at least one shorthanded goal in each of the last four seasons. Laich’s goal was Washington’s fourth shorthanded strike of the season.
Double Sawbuck –Alexander Semin’s goal was his 20th of the season, marking the fourth consecutive campaign in which he has achieved that milestone.
Penalty Shot – After failing to light the red lamp on each of the first five penalty shot attempts of his NHL career, Ovechkin made good on shot No. 6 Sunday against the Flyers. The goal was Washington's first on a penalty shot since Michael Nylander scored against Vancouver on Oct. 13, 2008.
Triple Sawbuck – Ovechkin’s penalty shot strike was his 30th goal of the season, marking the fifth straight season in which he has recorded 30 or more goals.
Shoot ‘Em Up – Ovechkin had four shots on goal on Saturday, giving him exactly 2,000 for his NHL career midway through his fifth season in the league. No other NHL player has ever had as many as 2,000 shots in the first six seasons of his career.
Streaking – Caps defenseman Mike Green picked up an assist on Semin’s power play goal to extend his scoring streak to eight games (three goals, eight assists). That’s his third streak of that length or longer this season. Green is the only player in the NHL with as many as three point streaks of eight or more games this season.
Green leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals, 37 assists and 49 points. His plus-20 ranks fourth among league blueliners.
Upper Hand – With Sunday’s win vs. the Flyers enabled the Caps to end the season’s series with a 3-0-1 mark against Philadelphia. That’s just the second time in the last 14 seasons in which Washington has had a winning record in the season’s series against Philly.
Back On The Beam – After a swift start to the season, Laich had been struggling offensively. With a pair of goals and an assist on Sunday, he hopes to be back on track.
“[Caps coach Bruce Boudreau] said to get back to being determined,” says Laich, “keep skating, using your assets, go the net and good things will happen. He was coach of the year for a reason. He’s such a smart guy. He’s got his hands all over the game. You just trust his word and tonight I got some rewards from it.”
Boudreau spent some time talking with Laich and watching video of the forward’s play in an effort to re-start his offensive game.
“He is a very intense young man,” says Boudreau of Laich. “Sometimes he likes to do too much. We just looked over his video – his shifts, his goals – we saw if there was anything we could find that he was doing different. We had a good talk and I was so happy when he scored. You are never going to find a guy that cares more than Brooks Laich.”
Prior to Sunday, Laich had a goal and six points in his previous 18 games. Bidding for his third consecutive 20-goal season, Laich now has 13 goals in 2009-10.
Razing Ray – Emery made his first start since Dec. 5 when Washington chased him to the showers after he surrendered five goals on just 17 shots in an 8-2 Caps win at Philadelphia.
Emery was 1-3 against Washington this season with a 5.09 GAA and an .836 save pct.
By The Numbers – The Caps had nine shots blocked in the first period and nine different Flyers were responsible for blocking them … Sloan and Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with three blocked shots each … This afternoon’s game with the Flyers marked the fourth straight game in which the caps did not have a first-period power play opportunity … Knuble’s goal was his sixth in as many games,
Down On The Farm – After a 10-4 win over Albany on Friday and a 7-2 thumping of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday, the AHL Hershey Bears finished a busy weekend on Sunday when they hosted the Syracuse Crunch at Giant Center. Hershey finished a weekend sweep with a 4-3 win over the Crunch.
Chris Bourque (his 11th), Alexandre Giroux (20th), Kyle Wilson (16th) and Keith Aucoin (22nd) scored to support Braden Holtby’s 16-save effort in goal. Holtby is now 12-2-1-1 on the season.
Hershey holds a 14-point lead over Albany in the AHL’s East Division standings.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays finished their weekend in style with a 5-4 overtime win over the Gwinnett Gladiators at North Charleston Coliseum. Rob Ricci won it for the Rays and Trevor Bruess recorded his first professional hat trick.
At 28-9-2-4 on the season, the Stingrays hold a 16-point lead over second-place Florida in the ECHL’s South Division standings.
1 - 0 PHI
1 - 1 Tie
James van Riemsdyk
2 - 1 PHI
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
5 - 2 WSH
5 - 3 WSH