For those of you who regularly read my blogs, I promised an entertaining contest between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night and both teams delivered, despite the fact that the referees tried to take over the contest. The Caps, who trailed 3-1 with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation, rallied with two quick power play goals, then gave up Andreas Nodl’s backhander with 6:07 left, tied it again at four on Eric Fehr’s power play blast with 39 seconds to go, and finally were defeated in a shootout, 5-4, before a sold out and very loud Verizon Center. Michal Neuvirth stopped 31 of 35 shots in goal for Washington and he gave up a shootout marker to Daniel Briere while Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin failed to tally in the gimmick. The loss drops the Capitals record to 14-5-2, good for 30 points and 1st place overall in the NHL.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from a game that was fun to watch, except for having to deal with the two guys in striped shirts:
– It doesn’t matter who the official three stars of the game were because referees Greg Kimmerly and Eric Furlatt decided they were going to be a major part of the show. The duo, who I deemed Kibbles and Bits midway through this tilt, gave the Flyers nine power plays and Washington seven. The total power play time in the game was 24:25 out of 65 minutes. That is totally unacceptable, especially given some of the calls, and the last time I can remember a game being officiated like this one may have been shortly after the lockout ended when the league was making a point of removing all of the clutching, grabbing, and hooking from the NHL. On Saturday players finishing checks with clean hits were sent to the box (Fehr on Ville Leino), players who were high sticked and then unintentionally skated into the opposing goalie were penalized for interference (Brooks Laich), and star players making a pass in overtime and a routine stride to the net (Backstrom) were called for interference when the opposing player tripped over his stick and embellished it by going down like being hit by a sniper. I won’t even get into the inconsistent calls as far as hooking or interference are concerned. After the tilt I was telling both Elisabeth Meinecke and Tara Wheeler of On Frozen Blog that I thought this was the worst officiated game I’ve seen all season, to include non-Caps contests (I watch at least one NHL game a night), and an unnamed Flyers player was walking by as I said that and he commented, “I agree.” Simply put, if you were a player in this game you likely had no idea what was a penalty and what wasn’t by the time this matchup ended.
“There were alot of calls, that when you look on replay, are non penalties, and I don’t know what was happening. Leino’s call was just a hit and he fell and kind of turned to the boards and they called boarding. To me that wasn’t a penalty, just playing hard hockey. Sometimes it happens that way, they are judgement calls, the refs are doing their thing and they see what they see, sometimes they see it wrong, sometimes they see it right. Like you said, 9-7, you don’t see that too often,” said Caps forward Jason Chimera on the 16 power plays in the contest.
– The intensity in this game was sky high and of the 21 games the Caps have played this year I have a hard time finding one that had as close to a playoff feel as this one did. Both teams, who were coming off of bad losses, definitely wanted to win and add in the fact that these two clubs flat out don’t like each other and you had the recipe for a can’t miss game. Given that the Caps played on Friday night and didn’t arrive back at Dulles airport until 130am while the Flyers were in DC already had to make Coach Bruce Boudreau feel good about the effort his team expended. Not many teams would have come back and forced overtime after the Jeff Carter goal near the 50 minute mark made it 3-1 nor would they have been able to send this one to the gimmick despite being shorthanded for the last 108 seconds of the extra frame, but Boudreau’s troops did just that.
“Both teams were coming off games that they probably didn’t feel very good about themselves. I think two very proud teams wanted to get back and show that they could play,” said Boudreau on the level of play in Saturday’s tilt.
“We played well, it was just one of those games that they scored on their chances. We didn’t give them a lot. The one goal, when it was tied up 3-3, you can’t give that one away because you come back and they get the momentum right away. We played well, we bounced back pretty well, both really good teams. I thought we played pretty well, I was proud of the guys today,” finished Chimera.
“I think it was a lot of fun to play this game, a lot of emotion between our teams and that’s good. It’s a lot of fun, just like a playoff game,” added Backstrom, who logged 20:18 of ice time.
– Washington played another strong first period and took a one goal lead, making it four out of the last five games they have been ahead after the first stanza, but it easily could have been a bigger margin. Ovechkin had a clean breakaway after a nice feed from Semin but he hit the crossbar. They also moved the puck well on their only power play in the first 20 minutes but Brian Boucher (33 saves) and the iron denied Washington again (the Caps hit at least three posts on Saturday after clanking the iron three times in Atlanta on Friday). In addition, at the start of the second period the Great #8 had another wide open one on one with Boucher but he failed to get a shot off as he deked himself off of the puck. Oveckin had an assist on the night and seemed to play harder, but he still is not finishing and perhaps he should take his whole lot of sticks out to the dumpster and replace them with some new ones, because this batch isn’t getting it done? I have seen him misfire or mishit the biscuit more times over the last several games than any other time in his career.
“I thought all game we had good chances. I was a little worried after the first period when it was only 1-0 because we didn’t get rewarded for having three two-on-ones, two breakaways; those are the kind of times that you put teams away and when you let them hang around something usually happens,” stated the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning coach on the impact of the Caps early missed opportunities.
“I think this is the perfect team for us to play right now. We had a brutal game last night and we came right back against one of the top teams in the league. I thought we played pretty well and deserved a better fate,” said Fehr on the Caps effort and result on Saturday.
– Neuvirth, desite allowing four markers and one lamp lighter in the shootout, played well making several good saves, many of which were in traffic. The Flyers have players such as Scott Hartnell and James Van Riemsdyk that prefer to set up shop in the crease area and that makes things tough on an opposing net minder.
– As mentioned above, the effort was pretty much there from every Capital and I thought that Chimera (1 goal, 1 assist), Backstrom (1 goal), Marcus Johansson (1 goal), and the dynamic duo of John Carlson and Karl Alzner stood out. Johansson had “his best game” as his head coach termed it. #90 was skating extremely well from end to end but the thing he really improved on was his compete level along the boards and behind the nets. Johansson did a much better job of keeping his feet churning when he was hit or slowed by a Flyers player and that made a big difference in his play. He also seemed to feel more comfortable on the third line with Chimera and Matt Bradley. Carlson has to be totally exhausted after this affair because he was up in the play all night. He was also the one who drew the penalty on Briere that allowed Washington to tie the game up in the final minute after the Flyers were in control and on the power play.
“He was playing to win. He was up the ice and he played hard. John Carlson is a great competitor and you could tell tonight he really wanted to win the game,” said Boudreau on his rookie defensemen, who hails from the greater Philadelphia area.
“It feels better and better. Today I felt better than the start and it’s just unlucky we didn’t get two points, but I think we struggled hard and we fought for it. I think we played a good game. I think we did a good job coming back. It’s always good to get a point,” added Johansson on the shootout loss.
Notes: The Caps won the faceoff battle, 37-31 (Dave Steckel was 7-2)…they lost for the first time that Boyd Gordon played and are now 11-0-1 with #15 in the lineup…Washington officially killed eight of the nine power plays that the Flyers were given but their second goal did come four seconds after Fehr’s phantom boarding call…the DC power play, which went 3 for 7, moved the puck well all night and was a major reason why this game went to overtime…the Caps third d-pair of John Erskine and Tyler Sloan only played 11:05 and 9:09, respectively…Semin had an assist but was -1 and took three penalties…the Hershey Bears were defeated by the Wilkes-Barre Baby Penguins at the Giant Center, 4-3, on Saturday and Semyon Varlamov (19 saves) took the loss…next up for the Capitals are the New Jersey Devils, at The Rock, on Monday night at 7pm.