WASHINGTON – In the thick of two playoff races – one for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and the other for the Southeast Division crown – the Washington Capitals could not muster a goal against Ilya Bryzgalov and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Flyers in front of an announced 18,506 fans at Verizon Center.
Philadelphia got a second period goal from Eric Wellwood, which proved to be enough to lift the visiting Flyers (36-21-7, 79 points) over the Capitals. Washington (32-28-5, 69 points) was also shut out Friday night by New Jersey in a 5-0 loss. Bryzgalov made 34 saves for Philadelphia.
The Capitals out-shot the Flyers by 11. The Capitals spent ample time in the Flyers’ zone, especially late in the third period, and had scoring chances throughout the game, one of which was a breakaway opportunity by Mike Knuble in the second period in which Knuble tried to tuck the puck through Bryzgalov’s five hole but was denied. The Capitals did not have a power play during the game.
“I think our forecheck was good, we put the D on their heels a lot, put pucks in areas where we could go get ‘em,” said Capitals forward Matt Hendricks, who skated 17:26 on the night. “It was a well-played hockey game by both teams and they got the win and it’s hard for us right now to talk about.”
Said Washington head coach Dale Hunter about the lack of goals: “You can’t be frustrated – you just gotta go, ‘goalie was hot.’ So, just keep getting the pucks to the net. We fired a lot of rubber on him again tonight. And we just gotta … try to get more traffic in front because the goalie’s been sharp, and he was good tonight.”
Wellwood’s line at the time of the goal, which included the assist-men Pavel Kubina and Matt Carle, scored off a turnover by Alex Ovechkin. Wellwood re-directed Kubina’s shot and the puck trickled past Washington’s Michal Neuvirth, who made 22 stops on the night. Ovechkin didn’t see much ice time in the second period after the goal.
“I definitely was matching lines,” Hunter said of Ovechkin’s lack of ice time. “I didn’t want him against Jagr and Jagr’s line and I had the [Brooks Laich] line against him. … [Ovechkin] turned the puck over and that’s what caused the goal to win the game.”
Hunter insisted he didn’t bench Ovechkin. “He played and he played a lot in the third and he had his chances and the goalie stood tall.”
The game was played at the kind of fast and physical pace that has become common in games involving both the Capitals and Flyers. The tone for the game was set in the first period by Troy Brouwer — Brouwer delivered a crunching hit to Erik Gustafsson and fought Scott Hartnell at center ice after the hit.
“I think guys were going after each other a little bit harder than some of the games – a few things after the whistle,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. It had a good feel to the game, low scoring, and one chance is the thing that wins it. So that’s a fun game to play in – just want to be on top.”
Washington now stands in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of both Tampa Bay and Buffalo, all three of which have played 65 games. The Capitals are one point behind eighth-place Winnipeg but have a game in hand, and are five points back of division leading Florida, which has played the same amount of games as Washington. The Capitals play the fourth game of a five-game homestand Tuesday night against Carolina.