Sometimes the hockey gods decide to prevent you from winning a hockey game.
On Friday night, at the Phone Booth, that was the case as the Washington Capitals fired 44 shots on goal against Michal Neuvirth and allowed only 11 against, but somehow lost the contest, 2-0.
For the Caps, this was the first time all season they’ve been defeated in back to back games in regulation, but fortunately this streak has come after they grabbed a 3-0 series lead. Game six will be Sunday at noon from Philadelphia on NBC.
Washington came out extremely fired up for this one and things got smoking hot fast as T.J. Oshie dropped the gloves with Brayden Schenn off of the opening faceoff. Oshie said that the Capitals players did not like what Schenn did to Evgeny Kuznetsov in game 4 (he cross checked him in the back of the legs after a stoppage in play) and he was the one who fought since he was the first one to Schenn.
The Caps were hoping for a fast start, but that was derailed quickly by a careless double minor for high sticking on Justin Williams. Williams would also take a goalie interference penalty in the opening frame and as a result, the Capitals had to spend six minutes of time killing his penalties.
At even strength, Washington totally dominated play and for the first frame, the Caps out shot the Flyers, 14-6, and in shot attempts it was 21-12.
Things would get even more lopsided in period two, but the Flyers would grab a 1-0 lead on a fluky goal. Williams took another careless high sticking minor and just three seconds after #14 stepped on the ice Ryan White scored when his shot banked off of Taylor Chorney’s skate and into the cage. The tally came 7:52 in to period two.
It was a lucky bounce and goal, but if the Capitals aren’t in the box for a terrible penalty, the bad bounce likely isn’t costly. Washington had 30 shots on goal to just eight for the Flyers after 40 minutes and shot attempts were a staggering 51-16. As Coach Barry Trotz routinely says, though, the only statistic that matters is the goals.
In the third period, the Capitals really kept their foot on the gas pedal pouring 31 shot attempts on the Flyers (only 11 SOG for the game) while Philly only had 11. For the game, shot attempts ended up an astounding 82-27 for Washington. That is simply amazing.
The Caps effort for 60 minutes was the best it has been this postseason. They were dominant and only were burned by taking bad penalties. Afterwards, Coach Trotz stated that he thought his team deserved the six penalties. I concur.
Simply put, the Capitals played a dynamite game and Neuvy stole this one for the Flyers. However, the Caps need to cut back on their penalties. All four of Williams’ minors were careless and Jason Chimera’s boarding penalty showed a lack of awareness. Jakub Voracek was clearly vulnerable and had his back facing #25 when Chimmer plowed him into the boards head first. It was a terrible penalty at a critical time as the Capitals were pouring tons of shots at Neuvirth.
The penalties are extremely disruptive to the Capitals line rotations and it saps momentum from the team. Had this game stayed at even strength more often, Washington likely wins because they are just better than the Flyers.
But the scoreboard is all that matters now. It’s 3-2 and the Capitals have a chance to win this series on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Clearly the Capitals want to duplicate the puck possession they had on Friday, but they also want to generate more stress for Neuvirth. The way to do that is get more pucks and bodies on the cage. Washington is the bigger and better team, but in a single game, they just didn’t get the breaks while taking some terrible infractions, and it proved costly.
Adjustments will be made for game six and Coach Trotz stated he would look at the lineup to possibly make some changes. The coach mentioned that they needed more from the middle of the lineup. To me that hits right at the low offensive output from Kuznetsov and Williams, so does Trotz reunite the TKO line (Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Oshie)? It might be a good idea, although Washington was very good in this tilt outside of the bone headed penalties.
Overall, you had to like the effort and energy the Capitals put into game five. They played like a desperate team and lost on a lucky bounce. They need to keep up that same intensity on Sunday and stay out of the sin bin.
It is never good to lose two games in a row in regulation, especially in the playoffs, but the Capitals can take solace in the fact that they still are in the drivers seat in this series with two games remaining, if necessary.
Notes: Alex Ovechkin had eight hits, eight shots on goal, and 14 total shots for the night in 21:41 of ice time…John Carlson led the Caps in ice time with 27:52…Chris Vandelvelde had the other Flyers goal into an empty net with 31 seconds remaining in regulation…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 38-34…Claude Giroux was the high man for Flyers time on ice, with 23:01…the Caps had 35 hits to just 17 for the Flyers.