For some reason, this Washington Capitals team is incapable of playing for 60 minutes. Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers, it was the last five minutes the Caps could figure out. Wednesday in Philly, it was the first 40, as the Caps fell behind 4-0 and never quite recovered, falling to the Flyers 6-4.
The Capitals managed just eight shots on goal in the first two periods.
It didn’t take long for the Flyers to get on the board. At the 6:48 mark of the first, Sean Couturier won a physical battle at the blue line against Jack Hillen in his first game back from the leg fracture that had him miss all but the first two games of the season.
Couturier pushed the puck to Claude Giroux, who had beaten Alex Ovechkin into the Caps zone. Giroux kept the puck away from Ovechkin, deked Braden Holtby, and put a backhander into the wide open net, all while Mike Green watched from the high slot.
Less than two minutes later, the Flyers tallied again. Troy Brouwer was trucked at the Caps blue line by Zac Rinaldo, Brouwer, clearly frustrated and now out of position, took a swing with his stick at Matt Read and was clled for slashing. With Brouwer in the box, it took just 13 second for the Flyers to light the lamp, with Jacob Voracek potting his 17th of the season.
Then, all hell broke loose.
Luke Schenn delivered a clean hit on Ryan Stoa, in his first game as a Capital. Tom Wilson, as he’s done on multiple occasions this season, stood up for his teammate and went at it with Schenn. In the ensuing scrum, John Erskine got tied up with Vinny Lecavalier and the two went at it, with Wayne Simmonds mucking things up grabbing Erskine while engaged with Lecavalier.
Erskine and Lecavalier were assessed game misconduct penalties, and Wilson an instigator and misconduct, while Simmonds received two minutes for slashing and another two for cross-checking. He should have received a misconduct for impeding Erskine while he was engaged with another player, but the refs didn’t see it that way.
Regardless, the Caps didn’t register a shot on goal in the ensuing power play.
The Flyers scored twice more in the second period, with Giroux netting his second of the game (23), after a turnover by Mike Green behind his own net, and Michael Raffl, his eighth of the season. Raffl’s goal spelled the end of the night for Holtby, who made 14 saves on 18 shots.
Philipp Grubauer relieved and made 10 saves on 11 shots the rest of the way.
The Caps finally got on the board at 14:06 on their fifth shot of the game, as Green’s wrist shot deflected off Joel Ward and Andy McDonald and past Steve Mason to break up the shutout.
Washington woke up in the third period, but it was too little, too late.
Ovechkin started the comeback attempt with a power play goal (44) from a nifty cross-crease pass by Nick Backstrom. Playing four-on-four, Troy Brouwer found the back of the net on a pass by Hillen, and it was 4-3 before the midway mark of the third period.
But another defensive breakdown put the Flyers back up by two. Eric Fehr lost Jakub Voracek in the middle of the ice and Mike Green did little but wave his stick at Voracek as he glided through the slot an beat Grubauer to make it 5-3.
The Caps didn’t fold, as Brooks Laich tipped a Green floater past Mason to cut it to 5-4.
The Caps pulled Grubauer with 70 seconds left and had an offensive zone faceoff to work with, but Steve Downie corralled a loose puck and sent it from his own blue line to make the final 6-4.