Heading into Tuesday night’s contest with the Flyers, the Capitals appeared to be righting the ship under head coach Dale Hunter, having won three of their last four. They played several fringe eighth-seed contenders throughout that stretch, so the game represented a litmus test against the Eastern Conference leaders in points.
The Capitals failed it miserably, losing 5-1 to the Flyers on home ice after letting the game get out of hand in the second period.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to pay money to see that hockey game tonight if I was a Caps fans. It just wasn’t good enough,” Capitals F Troy Brouwer said.
The Capitals came out of the gates strong in the first fifteen minutes of the game, drawing the first two power plays and hitting everything that moved. The Flyers killed both opportunities, and then at 16:16 of the first Flyers F Scott Hartnell got space on a rush down the left wing and fired a wrist shot that fluttered between G Tomas Vokoun’s pads.
“Sometimes he’s [Vokoun] going to have a bad one, that’s when the team needs to pick him up and help him out,” Troy Brouwer said. “We didn’t help him out.”
From there, the Flyers took total command while the Capitals put forth perhaps their worst stretch of hockey since the loss to Buffalo that helped get Bruce Boudreau canned. The Flyers began dominating possession, spending lengthy shifts in Washington’s end.
“Every time the puck crossed our blueline it ended up in our end for 30 seconds at a time,” Capitals C Jeff Halpern said. “We didn’t work hard to get the spots and we never came out with the puck clean out of our own end.”
Marc-Andre Bourdon earned his first NHL goal at 7:23 of the second to put the Flyers ahead 2-0 on a slapper from the point through traffic. The goal followed a draining shift in which the Capitals were pinned in their own end.
Later in the second, after spending an eternity in Washington’s zone, F Wayne Simmonds deflected an Andrej Meszaros point shot to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
“We turned it into a practice for our d-zone coverage and their cycles,” Halpern said. “It wore the game down, they embarrassed us because of it.”
The final blow in the second came with 2:27 left when Flyers F Max Talbot took a wrist shot from the blue line which trickled between Vokoun’s arm and body to give the visitors a 4-0 lead. Game, set, match.
With Vokoun pulled in favor of G Michal Neuvirth, F Jakub Voracek piled another goal on to make it 5-0 Flyers early in the third before Halpern mercifully ended Flyers’ G Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout bid.
As encouraging as the signs were over the last week, Tuesday night’s blowout was equally if not more troublesome.
Vokoun, who let in a momentum-killing goal in the first and a back-breaker for the Flyers’ fourth, is now 31st in the league in GAA and 25th in save percentage.
“We all know he would like a couple back. He knows it. Everybody knows it,” Hunter said.
Afterwards, the Capitals were once again left searching for answers after yet another lopsided defeat.
“If anything you just see that you got a little work to do, against a top team,” Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. “And you got a ways to go, but I don’t think it’s something we can’t reach for, I don’t think it’s something we can’t achieve.”