The Washington Capitals penalty killing had been perfect in two games going 8 for 8 but tonight that streak came to a crashing halt as the Caps surrendered three power play goals and also gave up another on a delayed penalty to lose, 6-5, in overtime despite two goals each from Alexander Ovechkin (five goals and four assists in three games) and Alexander Semin (four goals and three assists in three games). Danny Briere had the game winner in front after the Flyers got away with a Jeff Carter hold on Tom Poti in the corner and when Jose Theodore, who came in for Semyon Varlamov after the 4th Philly goal, couldn’t control the rebound of Kimmo Timonen’s point shot, Briere outworked John Erskine to gather in the puck and win the game.
I’m not sure who was worse tonight, referees Dave Jackson and Stephane Auger (is this officially Bad Refereeing Week given what we saw in Philly tonight and New England on Sunday??!!) or some of the Caps defenders. The call on Boyd Gordon late in the game that allowed the Flyers to tie the contest was borderline at best and the goaltender interference call on Chris Clark plus interference in front on Brooks Laich were ludicrous as they were shoved by Flyers before the supposed infractions. However, the Caps still should have won and had a power play opportunity in the last minute of regulation that carried into overtime but they failed to get it set up right and squandered a golden opportunity. Overall the Washington power play was disappointing on the night going just 1 for 5 (while the Flyers were 3 for 9).
Erskine, who was paired with Poti, was -2 and took a four minute high sticking penalty and was also called for holding in the second period. He only had to serve two minutes of the high stick because the first two were wiped out on Mike Richards goal (hat trick for #18 on Tuesday). #4 really looked lost out there tonight routinely getting beat to pucks and making bad decisions plus he badly screened Varlamov on the Timonen goal. It was a horror show shift for Erskine as he also took the high stick on that sequence.
In net, Varlamov (21 saves on 25 shots) started strong in a scoreless first period but he was too aggressive at the top of his crease on the first Flyers power play goal (and Mike Knuble and Laich were too far up killing the penalty as well allowing an easy cross box pass) and the final one he gave up was reminiscent of the Ruslan Fedotenko goal in last year’s Penguins series as a harmless point shot from Matt Carle (4 assists) bounced out of Varly’s glove and sat in the slot where Richards quickly slammed it home for his hat trick to make it 4-3.
But Washington continued to fight in this game and when Semin and Brendan Morrison scored just 74 seconds apart midway through the 3rd period the Caps looked positioned to go 3-0. But then Jackson made the borderline call on Gordon and Philly capitalized again on the power play.
Here are more comments and stats on the game that drops Washington’s record to 2-0-1:
Theodore stopped 14 of 16 shots but the two goals he allowed were possible because he gave up rebounds on point shots. The game tying goal ricocheted right off of Poti, then Theo and into the net.
Mike Green had an assist and was +2 in 28:23 of ice time (led all Caps) but did take a bad penalty for cross checking Mika Pyorala and it led to the Flyers first goal. Green has no goals and two assists in three games.
Ovechkin (22:54 of ice time) and defenseman Chris Pronger (27:44 of ice time) matched up against each other quite a bit and it was the big defenseman’s giveaway that led to the Great #8’s second goal on a nice feed by Nicklas Backstrom (three assists on Tuesday and eight total in three games with no goals). Pronger did thwart Alexander the Great in the third period when Ovie appeared to have some speed and might get around #20 for a potential game winner.
This was Knuble’s first game against his old teammates and it was not a good one for #22. He had no points, finished at -1, and was on the ice for the first and third Philly power play goals.
Michael Nylander was once again the healthy forward scratch while Boyd Kane played just 4:34 and took a penalty. Help up front could be near as Eric Fehr is expected to be cleared to play against the Rangers on Thursday night. On defense, Brian Pothier and Tyler Sloan were the healthy scratches. Sloan will likely see his first action of the season against New York. Washington’s defense needs to play better than they did tonight (allowed 41 shots) as they looked slow to the puck at times and were out muscled quite a bit.
Overall it was a frustrating night for the Caps but they still came away with a point. Staying out of the box was a problem last year and games like tonight don’t work well for Washington because the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin trio has to sit on the bench while the team kills penalties. Some of those calls were not good ones and can be blamed on the zebras but others were lazy and not smart such as the hooks and crosscheck.
Washington won the face-off battle 34-31. Ray Emery, who played in the KHL in Russia last season after being ostracized by the Ottawa Senators, got the win in a shaky effort stopping 31 of 36 shots.
One thing is for sure, this is a fun team to watch, but I don’t want to see Jackson or Auger anytime soon and I am filing them in the Ron Winter category tonight – bad referees.