When it comes to Capitals hockey, Washington fans have two teams at the top of their list that they despise, and one of those, the Philadelphia Flyers, ventured into the Verizon Center early this evening with the most points in the Eastern Conference and a six game winning streak to boot. After Sunday’s tilt, the top spot now belongs to the Washington Capitals.
Mike Green slapped one by Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (36 saves) on a power play just 29 seconds into overtime to send the Caps fans celebrating out onto F street while the boys from Philadelphia will hop on the bus and head home to Philthy. The victory improves the Caps to 10-4 and they have now won four straight games and six of their last seven.
Now on to the highlights, quotes, and analysis from a thrilling victory over a team that Caps fans like about as much as they like the Pittsburgh Penguins:
– Braden Holtby earned his first win in his first NHL action on Friday night vs. Boston and on Sunday afternoon Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to give #70 his first NHL start and rest a weary Michal Neuvirth. Well the young net minder, who is easily the best stick handling goalie in the organization, was tremendous. The 21 year old from Saskatchewan made 23 saves and many of the eight he thwarted in the third period were game savers.
“It’s definitely huge, but on a team like this, if a goalie just kind of gives the team a chance to win, they usually are going to pull through some goals. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming in,” said Holtby on the big stops he made in the third period that led to the Capitals OT win.
“In the first two periods I thought he looked a little nervous, but once they started getting some shots in the third period I thought he made a great game-saving save there in that flurry, moving from side to side. So, I think he handled himself overall really well for his first complete game,” critiqued the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning coach on Holtby.
– Washington scored two of their three goals on the power play (2 of 6) while the Flyers were shut down in their two opportunities with the man advantage. The Caps do have a propensity to over pass in those situations, but as Caps assistant coach Dean Evason said on Comcast during the game, the first marker by Alexander Semin came because his club simplified things and shot the puck on net. Alexander Ovechkin fired one that bounced to Nicklas Backstrom (2 assists) in the slot on the right post and the slick passing Swede slid the puck to #28, who quickly buried it into the cage. That is also how Green won the game, by simply teeing the biscuit up and blasting it. On that game winner Mike Knuble (1 assist), who arguably had his best game of the season, was screening the young Russian Flyers net minder.
“We wanted to score on the power play, more for me on the confidence of the power play and it won us the game so it worked out. I thought we were pretty patient and showed a lot of good restraint today. We didn’t retaliate and that was good,” commented Boudreau on Washington’s improving power play and also his team’s ability to not take retaliation penalties against a chippy Flyers team.
– For two periods the Caps outshot the Flyers 26-17 and carried most of the play but Bobrovsky made some big saves, including ones in tight on Knuble and Eric Fehr. However, it was Fehr’s quick snapper from the left wing boards from a bad angle that started the scoring for DC after Nikolay Zherdev lasered one by Holtby on a two on one break in period one. Philly would go up, 2-1, on a Ville Leino deflection of an Andrej Mezsaros blast from the right point before Semin’s power play marker set the stage for a wild third period that saw the Flyers play better before losing due to taking bad penalties.
“They had, by our count, three scoring chances after two periods. I haven’t seen [the numbers] in the third yet but obviously they were in our zone more in the third a little bit like their game last night with the Islanders where the Islanders, I thought, carried the play to them a little bit in the first two periods but the Flyers came on. They are a team with a tremendous amount of pride and history and when they were tired, I think they were tired, but when they get the chance to win it gives them energy and their defensemen were pinching really good in the third period and keeping us on our heels,” said Boudreau on the Flyers ability to battle on back to back nights.
– Despite the fact that the Flyers were belly aching at the referees after they lost, they can only blame themselves for taking bad penalties that were whistled against them. Chris Pronger, who would likely win the award for dirtiest player in the NHL if that poll was taken, incurred a four minute high sticking infraction with 3:55 in regulation. The Caps would not score on either minor but with 19 seconds left Sean O’Donnell was whistled for boarding and that was the one that ultimately did Philly in. Afterwards Pronger said “I don’t even know how I got the guy [Dave Steckel] in the face – I was on his stick the whole time,” but #20 is about as dirty and careless as it comes with his battle axe. Earlier in the final period he started a stick altercation with Knuble that did not get called but there is such a thing as hockey gods and karma. And bad karma for the Flyers was what was created by the big Philly blue liner for initiating an uncalled for sequence with a classy player like Knuble.
Notes: The overtime goal was the fifth of Green’s career, tied for second in Capitals history with Peter Bondra and Kelly Miller. Only Ovechkin (8) has more career overtime goals for the Capitals…Holtby, in his first NHL start, became the third straight Caps’ goaltender to start his career 2-0-0…Sunday’s goaltenders are the two youngest to start games in the NHL this season (Holtby, 21, and Bobrovsky, 22)…the Caps won the face-off battle, 35-26, with Backstrom going 16-10 and Steckel winning 8 of 10 draws…Washington is now 7-1 at home, tops in the NHL…next up for the Caps are the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on VERSUS on Tuesday night at 730pm.