The Caps looked to string back-to-back wins together, something they have struggled with this season, against the Philadelphia Flyers after flying in the night before from their 6-2 win over a flailing Toronto Maple Leafs squad. The Flyers themselves were just coming off of an eight-game road trip away from Wells Fargo Center, gone 19 days, and looking to make up some points lost on the road.
After 60 minutes was not enough, the Flyers took just over two minutes into overtime to score the game winning power play goal from Jakub Voracek to snap the Caps three game winning streak.
After taking a penalty in the final moments of the third and the beginning of overtime, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz voiced his concerns.
“I’m a little frustrated that we put ourselves in that,” he said. “If you look at the last six minutes of the game, we had a chance on power play we did not execute. We took a penalty at the end, we killed that off. We took another penalty in overtime; it has got to be the tenth time it seems that we’ve taken penalties in over time.”
Caps goalie Braden Holtby set the franchise recording for a goalie, starting 23 games straight.
Defenseman Mike Green was singing praises of the netminder, calling him “outstanding” postgame.
“Again tonight, he’s the reason why we got that extra point,” Green said. “Just gives us the confidence knowing he has been that good lately, we can just go out and play the game. He’s been outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Making the decision to start the hot goalie after playing him for 22 games straight, the latest being just the night before, Trotz jumped on the bandwagon praising his goalie.
“He was great,” he said. “I thought he was really good. Back-to-back last night, he gave us a chance to win.”
Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp first with his 21st goal of the season, a power play goal on Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto’s slashing penalty. The Capitals captain, who is enjoying a five-game goal streak, blasted the one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle, a familiar spot for the winger.
Sean Couturier tied it up just six minutes later for the home team when he put a wrist shot past Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
The game went into the second knotted at 1. Both teams have average records when tied after two periods, the Caps going 3-3-3- and the Flyers at 3-4-3.
Karl Alzner put his fourth of the season behind Mason, giving the Caps the lead less than five minutes into the third with a long wrister through traffic. Green shuffled the puck over to fellow defenseman Alzner on the blue line, who rifled the puck at the net behind the heavily screened Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
“He’s hot right now,” Green said of Alzner’s recent offensive tear. “He has a couple goals lately, beautiful shot by him. Good movement before that.”
Flyers center R.J. Umburger tied up the score quickly after with a lay-up on Holtby. Off the faceoff, a Nick Schultz shot went wide on Holtby, who left a juicy rebound right in front of a waiting Umburger.
A delayed bench minor for an extra man on the ice went against the Flyers to give Washington a man up. The Caps power play lacked any sense of urgency and Philadelphia easily killed off the penalty with less than five minutes left in regulation.
Washington got called with their own too many men bench minor minutes later. The Caps went a man down with a little under three minutes left in the game, a crucial penalty kill needed.
The Caps successfully kill off the late power play, desperately keeping their team alive in the final couple of minutes with the game on the line. The hard-fought game would go into overtime. Both the Caps and the Flyers have identical records in overtime with seven losses each.
Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen was whistled for hooking, giving the Flyers the man advantage. Just 17 seconds into the penalty, the Flyers scored on a Voracek slapshot which started from a pass from captain Claude Giroux, downing the Caps with a final score of 3-2.
Their late penalties, in the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime, killed the Caps momentum.
“We can’t take penalties in big games,” Ovechkin said. “You see how many games we are losing in overtime because of that. That is kind of momentum when the guys do their best to kill it…it is kind of a situation where we have to turn it around.”
Trotz called the recent string of penalties a “self-discipline” issue for his players.
“Sometimes there’s an accidental stick, but most times it’s a reaction or losing position,” he said. “They can stop, they have to stop…you’re just hurting your teammates.”
While they gained a point, going 11-1-4 in their last 16 games, Washington failed to continue their winning streak in their first meeting of the season with the Flyers. The Caps are now 1-6 in back-to-back hockey games.
“I feel very fortunate; I did not think we played very well,” Trotz said. “I did not think we were sharp. We lost way too many puck battles and I feel fortunate even to get a point.”
Green said the team is “disappointed” with the loss.
“We wanted that extra point,” he said. “Anytime we have played back-to-backs, we haven’t won that second game, tonight it was imperative that we get out of that rut moving forward in the season.”
Ovechkin chalked up the loss to the hard scheduling of the consecutive games.
“I think we moved well,” Ovechkin said. “We have to, especially back-to-back, we have to keep our legs moving. We scored on the power play and then we stopped playing. They kept their momentum. Nights like this [are] never going to be easy game.”
He credited Holtby for his solid play keeping the Caps alive.
“Holts played very well, he said. “[He] kept us in the game. In the end it was kind of a lucky bounce of the board. It happens…if it wasn’t for Holts, maybe they score a couple goals in the second period. But we take the points and we are going to move forward.”
Despite getting three points in the last two nights, Trotz was hard on his team, saying they “weren’t very good.”
“Both nights I did not like our effort,” he said. “You can’t win against a team that is trying to get back in it. They got a lot of urgency in their game. I thought they were just sharper.”
Despite his tough comments, Trotz called out a reporter for spewing “a bunch of crap,” when one suggested that it seems that the Caps have gained no ground on the first-place Penguins and second-place Islanders. With the point tonight, the Caps are now three points behind the Islanders – good for third in the Metropolitan Division. Trotz said they will “just keep grinding away.”