Washington finished off a five-game road journey with a flourish on Friday night, administering a 7-0 spanking to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in Philly. The Caps punctuated a 3-2 trip with a thorough thumping of their new Metropolitan Division neighbors, courtesy goaltender Braden Holtby’s first shutout of the season and right wing Joel Ward’s first career hat trick in the NHL.
Friday’s triumph marked Washington’s biggest margin of victory in a shutout win on the road since Don Beaupre backstopped an 8-0 drubbing of the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, 1991.
“I thought we were outstanding today,” says Holtby. “Obviously goals went in, but I thought our whole game was great from the [penalty kill] to five-on-five. I thought the Flyers played a better game than a 7-0 game. It just shows how good we played.
“That was by far our best effort this year, from what I saw.”
The Caps endured another somewhat sleepy start in Friday’s game and were forced to kill a couple of penalties in the first. Fortunately their crack penalty-killing outfit was up to the task. Nate Schmidt went off for interference at 6:39, and Jason Chimera followed him to the box with an offensive zone tripping call at 11:08 of the first period.
Washington killed both minors, and Ward’s wall work in the offensive zone at the end of the Chimera minor was instrumental in drawing a holding call on veteran Flyers blueliner Kimmo Timonen. After the two sides skated four aside for 36 seconds, the Caps took to the power play without captain and left dot sniper Alex Ovechkin for the first time this season.
The Caps were unable to generate as much as a shot attempt in their 84 ticks with the extra man, and Washington went past the 15-minute mark of the first frame without recording its first shot on goal of the night. Heading into the latter stages of the first period, the Flyers held a 22-5 bulge over the Capitals in shot attempts, but the game was still scoreless.
In the 17th minute of the first, the Caps jumped out in front. Philly defenseman Braydon Coburn’s backhand pass didn’t hit its mark in the Flyers’ end, and Schmidt showed some strong footwork to keep it in at the left point. He fed Martin Erat who in turn set up Nicklas Backstrom for a one-timer from just above the right circle to give the Caps a 1-0 lead at 17:28 of the first.
Despite Philadelphia’s 24-11 advantage in shots on net in the first, the Caps took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission. Philly had just a 6-4 edge in even-strength shots on net at that juncture.
“Obviously, we had two kills in the first period,” notes Holtby. “I thought we did a really good job of it, especially with our shot blocking.
“You want to get a few shots to get you in the game. At the same time, you don’t want them to be grade-A scoring chances, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Washington wasted little time expanding its advantage in the second.
Early in the second, the Caps forced a turnover in their own zone and broke off on a 3-on-1 rush. Mikhail Grabovski held and hit the late guy, Ward, with a pass in the slot. Flyers goalie Steve Mason shrugged the shot off, but Washington collected the puck and worked it back to the front. Grabovski’s shot banked off Ward and into the cage to push the Caps’ lead to 2-0 at 1:24 of the second.
Eighty seconds later, the Caps struck again. Jason Chimera blew past the flat-footed Philly defense tandem of Kimmo Timonen and Erik Gustafsson and tore off on a breakaway. Chimera stayed on the forehand and roofed one over Mason’s shoulder for a 3-0 Caps lead.
That goal sent Mason to the bench in favor of backup Ray Emery after the former was dented for three goals on just eight shots.
When Backstrom netted his second of the night at 3:49 of the second, it marked Emery’s baptism and also gave Washington its’ third goal on six shots in net in a span of just 145 seconds. It also expanded the Caps’ lead to 4-0.
Friday marked Backstrom’s first multi-goal game in exactly two years to the day, since he scored twice in a 5-4 overtime win over Anaheim on Nov. 1, 2011.
Ward roofed his second goal of the night past a frozen Emery at 16:25 of the period, and then Brouwer beat Emery on a Caps power play, firing the rebound of a Mike Green point shot into the net to make it 6-0 at 18:20 of the second.
With the Caps on another power play at 5:23 of the final frame, Chimera made a slick backhand feed to help his linemate finish off the hat trick. The three-goal game was the first by a Washington player against the Flyers since Steve Konowalchuk scored three times against Philly on Nov. 11, 2000, his 28th birthday.
“As a kid I’ve always dreamed about scoring big goals, trying to getting a hat trick, or even to win the Stanley Cup,” says Ward. “It was a good feeling, I can’t deny that. I felt really good. I got a couple of good passes. Chimmer gave me that last one right on my stick; I didn’t have to do much. The fact that we got the big win on top of that was an even better feeling.”
Holtby took it the rest of the way, stemming off the Flyers and adding to their mounting frustration with his 27-save shutout.
“I think we did a lot of good things,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “I think we handled the first five minutes, which we talked about. [The Flyers] have been playing better hockey and we gradually picked them apart.
“You never expect that kind of score. Things obviously go your way, a lot of little fluky things happened for the goals but we still did a lot of good things. We created turnovers, we created some speed, we cycled well – all the things we talk about on a night-to-night basis. Power play got a couple, penalty killing was good, so a lot of good things.”
As best as I can tell, Friday night’s shutout shelling was the worst suffered on home ice by the Flyers in more than 42 years, since Los Angeles Kings goalie Gary Edwards and his mates put a 7-0 hurting on the Flyers at the old Spectrum on Oct. 21, 1971.
Friday Night At The Fights – The Caps got into Philadelphia’s bullpen, chasing starting goaltender Mason early in the second period. Emery came on in relief and was even less effective, but he (cleverly?) found a way to take the rest of the night off.
After Caps’ winger Tom Wilson and Flyers’ forward dropped their mitts in the immediate aftermath of Ward’s third goal, Emery went the length of the ice to fight on an unwitting and unwilling Holtby, an ugly display that sparked a line brawl and ended up costing the Flyers the services of center Vincent Lecavalier.
Referee Francois St. Laurent was about as useful as a rubber crutch during the proceedings, standing aside with his hands on his hips while allowing Emery to unleash a flurry of shots at Holtby. St. Laurent removed his hands from his hips only to ward off rookie Caps center Michael Latta from coming to Holtby’s aid.
Meanwhile, the rest of the skaters on the ice found dance partners and paired off. Unfortunately for Lecavalier, he ended up with rugged Caps blueliner Steve Oleksy, who apparently inflicted enough damage to keep Lecavalier from the Flyers’ lineup on Saturday in New Jersey.
Said Emery of his actions after the game: “[Holtby] didn’t want a fight but I said basically ‘protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice.”
Emery was ejected from the game and Mason was forced to come back in to mop up.
Philadelphia’s mounting frustrations over the game (and almost certainly, the Flyers’ 3-9 start to the season) were evident early in the lopsided affair. Just 34 seconds after Philly coach Craig Berube burned his timeout (immediately after Ward’s first goal), Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo was banished for 10 minutes. Unable to find a Capitals player dumb enough to fight him while Washington was enjoying a 2-0 lead, Rinaldo received a 10-minute misconduct for “inciting.”
Less than a minute after Ward made it 5-0, Flyers’ forward Steve Downie instigated a fight with Washington winger Aaron Volpatti. Downie got more than he bargained for; he took a hard left from Volpatti that left him bloodied. After the game, Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren reported that Downie suffered a concussion and had been taken to a local hospital for observation.
Philadelphia was also guilty of three separate boarding minors in the game, the first of which was incurred when the Flyers were down 4-0.
Firsts On The First – Grabovski notched his first career NHL hat trick for Washington on Oct. 1 at Chicago in the Capitals’ season-opening 6-4 loss to the Blackhawks.
Exactly a month later, Ward recorded his own first NHL hat trick on Nov. 1 at Philadelphia.
Hot Stick – Chimera’s fourth goal in as many games was also his fifth of the season, two more than he totaled in 47 games during a snakebitten 2013-14 season.
With five goals and 11 points in 13 games this season, Chimera is only three points shy of matching his production from ’12-13.
Chimera had a goal and three assists on Friday, and the four-point game represents a single-game career best. He has enjoyed a three-point night on three previous occasions, most recently on Oct. 10, 2007 while with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Hot Line – The trio of Chimera, Grabovski and Ward has been ablaze for six games now, since Oates first cobbled them together for an Oct. 19 game against Columbus at Verizon Center.
The trio has combined for 11 goals and 23 points in those half dozen contests, and at least one of the members of the unit has scored in each of the six games.
“Today I remember when Chimmer and I talked I said, ‘Chimera, I feel pretty good today,’ recounts Ward. “He looked at me and said the same thing, ‘You know I feel pretty good today too.’
“We’ve just been rolling. Chimmer has been flying and has been getting some big goals for us. We’ve just been trying to go north-south. I know we keep saying the same thing, but it’s paying attention to details. It’s been working out. Obviously Grabovski has been making good plays. He’s got a great shot and a good stick. He caused a big turnover for Chimera on the breakaway. It was huge. We got off to a good lead and felt good about ourselves.
Mister Zero – Holtby’s shutout was the eighth of his career and it came in his 68th career NHL appearance. That ties him with Al Jensen for fourth place on Washington’s all-time whitewash list. Jensen tended the twine for the Capitals in 173 games from 1981-87.
Friday’s 7-0 shutout of the Flyers was the biggest margin of victory in a shutout win by a Capitals goalie since Olie Kolzig authored a 7-0 blanking of the Carolina Hurricanes in the District on March 28, 2001.
Holtby’s fighting major was the first earned by a Washington netminder since Kolzig fought former teammate Byron Dafoe of the Boston Bruins on Nov. 21, 1998.
Combo Platter – The last time the Capitals had a hat trick and a shutout in the same game was on Nov. 26, 2010 when Alexander Semin scored three goals to support fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov’s 17-save shutout efforts over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center.
Powering Up – Brouwer’s power play goal in the second period of Friday’s game ended an 0-for-13 drought with the extra man, the longest of Oates’ tenure as Washington’s coach.
"We've been doing a lot of the right things on the [power play],” says Brouwer, “we just haven't been able to get things going. Teams are keying on us because we've had a top [power play] for the past couple of seasons. We've got to give them new looks, we've got to work harder, we've got to find ways to make our plays, get our looks, get our shots, and tonight I think we did that."
Killing It – Washington has killed off 30 straight opposition power plays and has gone eight straight games without surrendering an extra-man tally for the first time in more than a decade, since March 29-April 13, 2002.
Alex Who? – Washington is now 12-8-2 and has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 78-66 in the 22 games that Caps’ captain Alex Ovechkin has missed during his NHL career.
Three of those games came against the Flyers in Philadelphia, and the Capitals have won all three. Washington has outscored Philly by a combined 20-6 in those three games without Ovechkin in the City of Brotherly Shove.
“I think we worked hard,” notes Backstrom of playing without Ovechkin. “We worked as a team. We scored on our chances. That’s what you have to do, especially when you have a good goal-scorer out of the lineup. Lots of guys stepped up, and that’s exactly what we needed. It was a good game by us.”
Back From Whence He Came – Downie was reacquired on Thursday from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Maxime Talbot. Friday night marked Downie’s first home game in a Philly uniform in almost exactly five years, since he suited up for the Flyers in a Nov. 2, 2008 game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Downie played all of 6:12 that night five years ago and was a minus-2. Days later – in the early stages of his sophomore season in the circuit – he was swapped to Tampa Bay.
Home Crookin’ – Holtby’s 27-save efforts (1.000 save pct.) in the Washington nets apparently didn’t impress the Philadelphia media member in charge of choosing the game’s three stars.
Ward and Backstrom were named the first two stars while Emery was somehow sarcastically deemed to be the third best of the 40 players suited up for Friday night’s game, despite his weak performance (11 saves on 15 shots, .733 save pct.) between the pipes.
Hopefully Emery, upon learning that said media member saw the goaltender’s poor performance between the pipes on Friday as being so vital to Washington’s cause as to merit the third star, won’t unleash his fistic fury on the Philly reporter.
Had that reporter been looking at it objectively, Emery undoubtedly would have been named the game’s first star. After all, he was involved in four Capitals goals while Ward managed only three and Backstrom just two.
We know. Math is hard.
Down On The Farm – Like their parent club, the AHL Hershey Bears spent Friday night on the road against a geographic rival from their own division. The Bears visited Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a Friday night date with the Baby Pens. Hershey dropped a overtime 3-2 decision in the game.
Derek Whitmore netted his third of the season on a Hershey power play at 13:13 of the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tied it on a power play of its own four minutes later to make it a 1-1 game going into the second period.
Hershey captain Dane Byers scored his second of the campaign at 11:41 of the second period to put the Bears back on top at 2-1. The Baby Pens evened the game at 2-2 at 7:04 of the third period and won it on a Brendan Mikkelson power-play goal at 4:35 of the extra session. When the game ended, Hershey was four seconds shy of successfully killing off a Nicolas Deschamps goaltender interference minor.
Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves in the Hershey nets in a losing effort.
The 2-3-1-0 Bears head home to host the Baby Pens on Saturday night at Giant Center, and Hershey finishes off a busy weekend on Sunday when it hosts Norfolk.
Down a level, the ECHL Reading Royals earned a 6-2 road win over the Wheeling Nailers on Friday night. Six different Royals scored to support the 22-save effort of Brandon Anderson in the Reading nets.
T.J. Syner, Louie Caporusso, Ryan Kavanagh, Domenic Monardo, Sean Wiles and Stanislav Galiev scored for Reading while Dustin Gazley chipped in with three assists.
The 3-3 Royals return home to host Elmira at Sovereign Center on Saturday night.
By The Numbers – Nine players recorded at least a point for Washington and six of those skaters had multiple points … Green paced the Caps with 25:10 in ice time … Eric Fehr led all Washington forwards with 7:36 in power play ice time, more than double the 3:32 in power play time he had accumulated all season going into Friday’s game … John Carlson led the Caps with 4:18 in shorthanded ice time and four blocked shots … Ward paced the Capitals with five shots on net … Philly rolled up 99 penalty minutes to 65 for Washington.