Another wild finish at the Verizon Center meant two more unconventionally earned points for the Capitals Sunday night. In their 5-4 comeback win against the much reviled Philadelphia Flyers, Washington scored three goals – including Alexander Ovechkin’s game-tying tally with an empty net and 48 seconds left in the game – in a 7:52 span to force overtime and eventually earn their eighth shootout win of the season.
While Ovechkin is often at the center of the Capitals unlikely victories, Washington also received offense and overall improved performances from their blueliners and another quietly excellent game from Nicklas Backstrom, who scored the winning goal in the shootout and now has 11 points in his last five games.
Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves and shut down two Philadelphia shooters in the win.
“We have great offense, we can score,” Grubauer said when asked about his team’s ability to fight back from multiple goal deficits. “So every time you need a goal, it seems like we can put the puck in the net, which is good for us.”
That offense largely comes from Ovechkin, who seems likely to coast to a fourth Rocket Richard Trophy and is on pace for a 71-goal season.
“There is a unique quality about (Ovechkin) that he gets that puck that far out and he finds the lane to get it through,” head coach Adam Oates said of Ovechkin’s tying goal. “He’s an incredible sniper.”
Ovechkin was not the only one flashing his offensive prowess, though. While thuggish play took center stage the last time these two teams faced each other, the second Caps-Flyers game of the season mostly showcased skill, with slick offensive moves from Ovechkin, Backstrom and Marcus Johansson as well as Flyers forwards Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl. Raffl, who had a three-point night, has only recently been given a chance on the Flyers’ top line and is clearly relishing the opportunity.
Even though most of the offensive highlights and a 4-1 lead belonged to Philadelphia with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Adam Oates didn’t feel that the score reflected his team’s performance up to that point.
“I just said to George (Capitals GM George McPhee), ‘we’re losing and I wasn’t mad,’” Oates said. “We had a pretty good (first) period, we ended up tied. They get one late, good players made a good play against us. And the second period, same kind of thing…other than that it was a pretty good period again. And then the third goal obviously deflates you, tough play on (Grubauer), and before you know it, it’s 4-1, (even though) both teams played a pretty even game so far.”
Momentum started to turn for the Capitals when Mike Green scored his second goal of the season at 11:20 of the third period. Excitement in the crowd grew when the Flyers took an ill-timed delay of game penalty just 22 seconds later.
The Capitals ineptitude on the ensuing power play seemed to squash any hopes of a comeback, but late goals from Dmitry Orlov and Ovechkin, along with a passive approach by the Flyers, ensured that the Capitals would earn at least one point in a game they seemed likely to lose in regulation.
This time the shootout didn’t take 10 rounds, as it did Friday night against Florida, to determine a winner. Eric Fehr, who is now 5-for-5 in shootouts this year, and Backstrom had successful attempts for the Caps while only Philadelphia captain Giroux scored for the Flyers.
The two teams face off again this Tuesday in Philadelphia. While the results of the first two games of the regular season series were extreme and unpredictable, John Erskine has some guesses as to how the third battle will unfold.
“I think both teams will probably come out a little harder,” he said. “And I’m sure it will be a little rougher, too.”
Michael Latta left the game with a lower-body injury. Adam Oates expects him to be available for tomorrow’s practice.
The game against the Flyers marked Troy Brouwer’s 400th NHL game.
The Capitals-Flyers match was the 200th consecutive sellout for the Caps.
The game’s three stars were 1) Marcus Johansson 2) Michael Raffl 3) Dmitry Orlov
In his post-game press conference, Oates praised Ovechkin for his considerable skills but said there is room for the Washington captain to grow and become a more complete player. The Caps bench boss was coy, however, when pressed for details about how Ovi could improve. “Lots of ways,” was his only response.