After dropping their last two games out on the West Coast in disappointing fashion, the Caps headed into Philadelphia looking to finish their longest road trip of the season on a good note. And with Alex Ovechkin on the shelf with an injured shoulder, they would have to do so without their captain and top goal-scorer. Jumbled lines and a few call-ups in place, the Caps set out to do just that - and they succeeded, to the tune of a decisive 7-0 victory over the home team.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Pretty hard to tell from the outset of this one that it would end up being such a high-powered offensive night for the Caps, as they went through the first 15:30 of the opening frame without a single shot on goal. By the time the first puck hit Steve Mason, the Flyers were already lighting up the shot counter with a healthy 7-0 lead (although it didn't necessarily look that lopsided).
- Hardly one to let silly things like unbalanced shot counts dissuade him, Nicklas Backstrom took it upon himself to give the Caps a 1-0 lead in the dying minutes of the first period. It came about after a strong shift by the top ("top"?) line, starting with an excellent keep-in by Nate Schmidt that not only kept the play going but seemed to fool half of the Flyers' skaters. That left plenty of room for Martin Erat and Backstrom to go to work and put the Caps on time. With the score intact by the end of the first, it marked just the third time this season the Caps have gone into the locker room with a lead after one (the other two being the win in Edmonton last week and the loss to Carolina back on October 10.
- It was just the start of what would end up being a very good game for the Ovechkin-less top trio, with Eric Fehr looking better than he has in a long time and Erat and Backstrom proving to be a pretty potent duo. Might be nice to see #10 up there once Ovechkin returns, no? Just a thought.
- Lots of special teams time in this one for the Caps to work with, whether it was the two penalties they had to kill before the first was 12 minutes old (the first of four on the night) or the truncated power play in the opening frame (the first of many, MANY by the time the night was over). After a pretty lengthy power play drought, at least by the Caps' standards, it was nice to see them take advantage of their chances and cash in twice.
- Love seeing Michael Latta in the lineup for a game like this one, especially early on. He has proven to be a perfect pest in his rare appearances in DC so far, great at getting the other team to do something stupid - and he did it again tonight, clearly getting under the Flyers' collective skin late in the first and continuing early in the second when he goaded Zac Rinaldo (that calm, cool and collected guy that he is) into taking a ten-minute misconduct. And it wasn't all pest-related activity that made him stand out, as he actually made some nice plays on the fourth line to generate some chances for his line.
- You just can't say enough about the third line lately, and tonight was one of their best to date. It started early in the second to give the Caps a two-goal cushion, with some hard work around the net (and a lot of orange jerseys standing around staring) and by the end of the night they had combined for a very impressive four goals and six assists. That's a goal and three assists for Jason Chimera, three assists for Mikhail Grabovski... and Joel Ward with his first career hat trick. Excellent work all around.
- For the top-six forwards, shots haven't been as easy to come by as they have for, say, Alex Ovechkin (as we noted earlier this week). Tonight? They ended with a combined 12 shots on net and numerous others that missed or were blocked. Perhaps not Ovechkin-esque on an individual level, but certainly more than enough to make up for his absence. Oh, and the goals helped with that, too.
- Ugly as the score was in the Caps' favor, it kind of overshadows the night Braden Holtby had in net, particularly early on as he made sure the Caps wouldn't fall behind early despite a barrage of Philly shots and a few power play chances. And when all was said and done, he finally got himself his first shutout of the season (and his team's first shutout, as well) He also held his own in his first NHL fight... but more on that in a minute.
- Right up until the tail end of the second period, Troy Brouwer held the dubious distinction of being the only Cap who had yet to register even a single shot attempt, blocked, missed or otherwise... until he scored on the power play to make it 6-0 Caps. Yeah, he's good like that.
- You can talk all you want about the Flyers no longer being the Broad Street Bullies, but the display they put on in the third period after the game was pretty much what you used to expect going into Philadelphia. It started with Wayne Simmonds running around, throwing himself into people until he got a fight from Tom Wilson, and ended with Ray Emery for some reason deciding to skate the length of the ice to take on noted fighter Braden Holtby. All told, penalties were handed out to... well, just see for yourself:
So the Caps wrap up their road trip with a game that was out of hand in more ways than one by the end - but aside from the fisticuffs and other nonsense, they put together a decisive road win with a healthy second period and a strong finish to give themselves a much-needed two points. That and the fact that no one got hurt? A good night all around. Come on home, boys.