Throw Out The Tape – The Capitals lost each of their first three games of this abbreviated season by multiple goals, but since that 0-3 start they’ve been in virtually every game they’ve played. But the performance the Caps turned in on Wednesday night in Philadelphia was likely the flattest over a full 60 minutes of any game they’ve played this season.
Washington fell down 1-0 on the game’s first shift, and the Flyers had all the offense they’d need by 4:04 of the first when Wayne Simmonds scored on a power play to make it 2-0. One night after an uplifting 3-0 victory on home ice over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps suffered a 4-1 setback to the Flyers.
“We had a terrible start,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “First shift and then down two quick and playing against a team that needs it as bad as us. We had no answer for them.”
“It’s disappointing,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward, who scored Washington’s only goal late in the third period. “You can’t give up a goal on the first shift, especially in this building. It’s a hostile environment, especially to their big-game players. They thrive on that stuff. It’s definitely not the start we wanted.
“It’s definitely disappointing especially the win that we came off of. We’ve got to move on for sure and just regroup, throw that one past us and just collect points the next game.”
Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux scored just 23 seconds into the first when the Caps were unable to contain the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell at the right post. Hartnell fed Giroux who was camped near the top of the paint on the left side, and he tapped it into a yawning cage.
Washington’s Mike Ribeiro was sent off for hooking at 2:57, and Simmonds scored on the ensuing power play. Philly scored twice in the first and twice in the second.
“When that happens,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner of Philly’s fast start, “you hope maybe for them to take their foot off the gas and they didn’t seem to do that the entire game. It was a tough start and it was tough the entire game. It’s too bad.”
“I don’t know, maybe tired?” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin when asked for an explanation for his team’s performance. “But blame us. We shouldn’t have started like that.
“We still had 55 minutes left. We just had to stick to the plan. We just didn’t have that kind of jump that we had [the last] couple of games. It happened. We have to forget it and just move forward.”
Ward’s late goal enabled the Caps to avert a shutout, and the Capitals also seem to have averted an injury to center Mathieu Perreault. In the game’s final minute, Perreault was coming through the neutral zone when Philadelphia winger Harry Zolnierczyk checked the Washington center hard. Zolnierczyk was assessed a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct, but Oates didn’t see anything wrong with the hit.
“I don’t think it’s dirty at all,” says Oates. “It’s the product of our whole game, quite honestly. There’s 30 seconds left, the game’s over and Matty thought that he could stickhandle through the team. That’s not what we do, all of us tonight. Guys are sitting there waiting for you and you get hit.
“The atmosphere clearly dropped in the game. It was over. And you think you can dangle through a team. You just can’t. It’ll never work that way.”
The hit looked as though it might have left Perreault with a charley horse, but he was walking without a limp after Wednesday’s game.
Washington missed a chance to move to within two points of the three-team logjam at the top of the Southeast Division. The loss was the Capitals’ first in regulation in Philadelphia since a 7-1 thumping on Dec. 20, 2008.
Special Delivery – Both Washington and Philadelphia came into the game extremely hot on both special teams. But tonight, it was the Flyers who got the job done on special teams.
Philly scored on each of its first two power play chances of the game, and the Flyers killed off all four Washington extra-man chances on the night.
Washington’s first power-play chance came in the first period, shortly after Simmonds scored to make it 2-0. The Caps were able to isolate Ovechkin for a one-timer chance, but Philly goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov slid over and made the stop.
By the time the Caps got their second power play of the game, they were already down 3-0. Wednesday’s game was only the second in the last 11 that the Caps didn’t notch at least one power-play marker.
Welcome To The Show – Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer was recalled from AHL Hershey on Wednesday to fill in for the ill Michal Neuvirth as Braden Holtby’s backup. For the 21-year-old Grubauer, it was his first recall to the NHL and his first time pulling a sweater over his head for an NHL game.
Expected to serve as Holtby’s backup tonight, Grubauer was pressed into service when Holtby was dented for four goals on 18 shots in 34:55 of work.
“I tried to step up and give those guys confidence and show the organization that I can do something as well,” says Grubauer.
“Of course I was nervous at first, but once the puck drops it’s like any other game. I couldn’t really prepare for it.”
When Grubauer stepped into the crease with 5:05 left in the second period of Wednesday’s game against Philly, he became just the fourth German-born goaltender in NHL history, following Michel Larocque, Thomas Greiss and Timo Pielmeier.
Grubauer acquitted himself well, stopping all 14 shots he faced in 25 minutes of work.
“He played well,” says Ward of Washington’s rookie netminder. “We’ve seen him before. He had a big exhibition game with us in Columbus. He’s a good goalie. It was good for him to into the game and gain some confidence from there.”
“I felt good,” says Grubauer. “I learned a lot today. I learned a lot that I need to work on the next couple of months and go from there.”
Six Pack – Ward’s goal was his sixth of the season and it came in his 19th game of the season. That matches his total from a season ago when he scored six goals in 72 games with Washington.
Unlucky 13 – Tonight’s game marked just the third time in 13 games in Philadelphia that Ovechkin did not record a point, and it was just the fourth time in those 13 games that he did not score a goal.
Lifetime against the Flyers in their building, Ovechkin has 12 goals and 18 points in those 13 games.
Closing The Book On February – With a win in Philly on Wednesday, the Caps would have finished above the break-even point for the month of February. Washington’s loss to the Flyers leaves it at 6-6 for the month. That’s an improvement over the team’s 1-5-1 January, but the Caps remain four games below break-even.
Caps Killer – Flyers forward Simon Gagne scored the first two goals of his NHL career against the Caps and goaltender Olie Kolzig on Oct. 12, 1999. Gagne was a 19-year-old rookie at the time, and he has continued to score against Washington with some regularity over the years.
Gagne moved on to Tampa Bay and then Los Angeles – where he won a Stanley Cup last spring – before rejoining the Flyers in a deal with the Kings on Tuesday.
Wednesday was Gagne’s first game back with the Flyers, and he got right back to scoring against the Capitals. Gagne notched Philly’s third goal of the night on a power play early in the second period. He now has 19 goals and 38 points in 39 career games against Washington.
By The Numbers – Mike Green paced the Caps with 22:14 in ice time … Eric Fehr logged 17:12 on the night for the Caps, just eight seconds off his single-game career high of 17:20, also in Philadelphia on Dec. 5, 2009 … Ovechkin led with six shots on goal; he attempted 12 but five were blocked and one missed … John Erskine led the Caps with five hits … Luke Schenn led the Flyers with six hits … Nicklas Grossman paced Philly with seven blocked shots.
Related: Capitals Minute