April 23, 2017

Washington Capitals First Round Game 2 Recap: Holtby stellar as Caps build series lead

HOLTBY MAKES 41 SAVES TO LIFT CAPS TO 2-0 SERIES LEAD

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After a physical Game 1, the Washington Capitals came in to Game 2 expecting nothing less from the Philadelphia Flyers, except maybe that they would ratchet the hitting, antagonizing and overall agitating up even another notch. That was certainly the case — and then some — as the Flyers controlled play in just about every facet…except the scoreboard.

Braden Holtby was again exceptional, especially in a first period where the Flyers got 18 shots, and the Caps were the beneficiaries of one of the strangest goals you’ll ever see, and the Caps beat the Flyers 4-1 before a raucous Saturday night crowd at Verizon Center to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Flyers came out, well, flying, at the start of Game 2, outshooting the Caps 7-1 in the first few minutes.

It was Washington that got the first power-play opportunity, and they made good on it. The Flyers tried to clear with a lob, but John Carlson caught it open-gloved to keep it in the zone. Stung, he passed it off twice before trying a shot, and his wrister from center point got through a double-high screen and past Steve Mason to put the Caps up 1-0, despite being outplayed.

The Caps managed to avoid the early penalty calls they suffered in Game 1, but it caught up to them late in the first, with Jason Chimera and Carlson both whistled for cross-checks within 50 seconds of each other late.

But as he’s been all season long, Holtby (41 saves) was the Caps’ best player, turning aside the Flyers on every opportunity and the first ended with the Caps up by one.

Early in the second, Washington made it 2-0 on one of the all-time strangest plays. After a tie-up at center ice, both teams went for a change and Chimera sent a soft backhanded deflection toward the Flyers cage. Mason went down to block it, but it somehow eluded him and went right between his legs and behind him into the net. It needs to be seen to be believed.

It stayed that way for about seven minutes before the Flyers got back in it. On an odd-man rush, Brooks Orpik got caught playing a man instead of the puck and it slipped right between his legs to the awaiting stick of Jakob Voracek, who flipped it past Holtby to trim their deficit to one.

But just before the second intermission, Mark Streit was whistled for holding, giving the Caps’ vaunted power play another opportunity. Backstrom held at the half-boards, then slipped a pass through T.J. Oshie’s legs – a play they work on in practice — to Alex Ovechkin in his normal spot in the left wing circle. The Great 8 made no mistake, ramming it home to make it 3-1 before the break.

The Caps were content to play dump and chase most of the third period, but with just over two minutes left, Nick Backstrom carried in on the right wing and when Mason went down thinking about the pass Backstrom called his own number for the insurance goal and a 4-1 lead.

The series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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