Missed It By That Much – Tonight’s game against the Flyers in Philly offered the Capitals a huge opportunity. The finale of a five-game road swing, it was also the rubber match of the set as the Caps came in with a 2-2 mark in the previous four games. As the game-in-hand on both seventh-place Ottawa and ninth-place Buffalo, the contest offered Washington a chance to pull to within two points of the Senators and to put two points of distance between itself and the Sabres.
The Caps couldn’t quite pull it off, but they did pull a point out of the contest in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers.
Washington started swiftly, getting a goal from captain Alex Ovechkin on the game’s first shift. Ovechkin corralled a loose puck deep in the Philadelphia zone and quickly tucked it behind Flyers’ goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
That single tally equaled the offense the Caps were able to muster in the previous 135 minutes and 38 seconds against Bryzgalov.
It would also be the last time the Capitals would light the lamp behind Bryzgalov on this night, despite several glorious chances in the second period.
In the first minute of the middle frame, Ovechkin teed up a one-timer from the left side at a mostly open net, but instead of getting the puck up high where it had a better chance of finding purchase behind Bryzgalov, he slid it along the ice. Bryzgalov was able to get just enough of it with his pad to push it harmlessly wide.
Several minutes later, Caps center Keith Aucoin hit the goalpost with a shot. Mere seconds after that, Flyers’ center Claude Giroux skated around Caps defenseman dennis Wideman and cruised in on Washington netminder Braden Holtby. Holtby tried to pokecheck Giroux, but missed. The Philly pivot calmly potted the puck into the open net to even the game at 1-1 and close out the scoring for the night.
"I just got caught halfway,” laments Holtby. “When [Giroux] had his head down kind of getting around [Wideman], the right play I think with my game is to slide poke check to surprise him. I did a halfway effort and didn't slide in and go as aggressive as I needed to and that's why it got around me. It's a play I would like to have back, but not one I'm going to dwell on."
Washington had more chances to go on top, but could not cash in.
A Mike Green shot from the slot was gloved nicely by Bryzgalov. Mathieur Perreault hit the goalpost. Marcus Johansson was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Johansson had Bryzgalov beat on the bid, but the Philly goaltender upended the Caps forward before he could pull the trigger on his shot. Late in the period, Ovechkin had another prime one-timer opportunity from the left circle, but he blasted it wide.
“We played okay,” says Caps center Jeff Halpern. “We had a couple of really good chances in the second to take the lead back or get a two-goal lead, I can’t remember what point in the game it was, but we got a couple of posts. They had some chances too; it was a good game. Our goalie played really well and gave us a chance to win. We probably needed the two points more than they did.”
Holtby Holds Up Well – Rookie goaltender Holtby was pressed into service in the final two games of the Caps’ five-game road swing, getting starts in difficult buildings in Detroit and Philadelphia.
He came through with aplomb, helping the Capitals to three of a possible four standings points and surrendering a combined total of just four goals in 125 minutes of work while facing the sixth-best and third-best offensive teams in the league, respectively.
"He's been outstanding,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward of Holtby’s performance in the last two games. “Even in Detroit he was outstanding and that's a tough building. He's been back to back here with tough buildings. He's a heck of a goaltender. He's putting in a lot of work."
As for Holtby, he was typically hard on himself.
"It was terrible,” he says. “Those two goals [including the shootout winner] aren't even near good goals for the players that scored. Those just shouldn't go in. We should have won 1 - 0 and all I can really do is look at it tomorrow and make sure that I improve."
Road In The Rear View – Now that they’ve pushed their way through the daunting five-game road trip, the Caps have eight games remaining. Just three of those are on the road, but they’ve still got some tough road stops ahead in Boston, Tampa Bay and New York.
Getting five points of a possible 10 on the just-completed trip has to qualify as a success for a team with an overall road mark of just 14-20-4 on the season to date.
"It was a couple of big games,” says Ward of the five games on the road. “A couple of big victories for sure. I think we have to go back home and establish our home building and just kind of regroup."
Fattening Up on Philly – Ovechkin continued his career-long domination of the Flyers and their netminders. He now has 23 goals and 38 points in just 26 career games against Philadelphia.
Turning The Tables – Twice in the last two seasons, the Caps have gone through an entire game against the Flyers without getting a single power play opportunity.
Tonight, the Caps’ penalty-killing outfit was able to take the night off. Philadelphia did not have a power-play chance all night, and the Caps
White Hot Russian – Bryzgalov continued his recent run of stellar backstopping in the Philadelphia nets, against the entire NHL and against the Capitals.
In the month of March, Bryzgalov is now 9-1-1 in 11 starts with four shutouts, a 1.27 GAA and a .956 save pct. His 1-0 whitewash of Washington at Verizon Center on March 4 started a run in which he had four shutouts in a span of five starts. He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last 10 starts.
In his first start against the Capitals as a member of the Flyers on Oct. 20, Bryzgalov was a 5-2 loser. He surrendered three goals in a span of just 2:25 in the first five minutes of the third period of that contest, yielding tallies to Roman Hamrlik, Ovechkin and Ward. For both Hamrlik and Ward, the goals were their first in a Washington sweater.
Since allowing those three goals in 2:25, Bryzgalov has allowed the Caps to score just two goals in a span of 200 minutes and 12 seconds.
By The Numbers – Green led the Capitals with 26:01 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Capitals with six shots on goal … The Caps outhit the Flyers 29-20; Ovechkin led the way with five … Hamrlik led Washington with six blocked shots … Perreault won seven of eight (88%) face-offs on the night.
1 - 0 WSH