With just fourteen games remaining on the regular season slate, the Caps find themselves tantalizingly close to a playoff spot... but so do about a billion other teams, including tonight’s opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers. So after a big win last night, the Caps headed into Philly looking to put a bit more space between themselves and the pack.
They would ultimately end up doing so, but not as much space as they would have liked - and not in a way any of us were okay with - as they let a two-goal lead slip through their fingers against the League’s worst third period team and were forced to settle for the single point.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps started off strong, piling on the shots and dominating play for the first ten minutes of the game. Strong cycling led to numerous quality chances and eventually the game's first tally, as an excellent shift by Marcus Johansson , Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin resulted in a deflection goal by Backstrom to put the Caps up by one.
- Usually it's the road team that needs to survive the first ten minutes as the home team feeds off of the energy of their fans. Tonight, however, it seemed like the roles were reversed; the Flyers went over ten minutes without a shot to start the first period, their first one drawing sarcastic cheers from the hometown "faithful". Seconds later that sarcasm turned into legitimate cheering, however, as the Flyers made their second shot count on a Max Talbot chip shot over Braden Holtby.
- And after hanging on for dear life early in the period, all of a sudden it was 2-1 as Claude Giroux launched a lucky (but unintentional-looking) pass up ice as Matt Read was darting out of the zone. The result was a clean breakaway for Read, who couldn't be caught by either John Carlson or Hillen, and Read just rifled it past Holtby. It was one of the first momentum swings of the game... but it wouldn't be the last.
- Shortly after the Flyers took the lead, the Caps were awarded an extended 5-on-3 - which, if you've watched any of their games this year, you'll know is more of a curse than a blessing. Sure enough the Caps wasted the almost two minutes of time with the extra man, failing to put any significant pressure on the Flyers and even giving up a 4-on-2 break the other way as the penalties expired. And to put the cherry on the sundae, that odd-man rush the other way forced Marcus Johansson to take a penalty.
- The second period was a bit calmer (relatively speaking)... until the end, that is. With Mike Green exiting the penalty box, Brooks Laich made a great heads-up pass to send Green in alone. And just like Read, Green made no mistake on his shot and it was all tied up at two after two.
- Congratulations to Backstrom, who was appearing in his 400th game tonight. And with his goal and assist in this one he picked up point #398, 399... so close. Would have been pretty cool to get point #400 in game #400, no?
- Zac Rinaldo is on the Flyers’ roster for one pretty clear reason, and that was on full display tonight, as he made sure to live up to his reputation - most notably in his attempt to go after Green. Why? Because Green, in dodging an attempted check by Max Talbot, had inadvertently cut Talbot with his skate, which apparently in Rinaldo's mind was something that needed to be avenged. Excellent awareness, Zac.
- The stupidity continued later in the third, this time with Jakub Voracek going after Steven Oleksy for a perfectly clean open-ice hit on Giroux. Voracek, who had exactly zero NHL fights in his career before this one, took it upon himself to challenge Oleksy - who held his own despite a) having his jersey up over his head and b) fighting someone with a visor. That move led to a four-minute power play for the Caps, and for once they cashed in - twice - jumping out to the lead on Johansson's drive from the slot (hey look, he shot the puck!) and then extending it with the captain's 12th power play goal of the season.
- It seems that no lead is safe in the NHL these days, particularly in the last minute of a one-goal game. The Caps opened the door a bit when Giroux cut the lead to one with just under eight minutes remaining, and then with under ten seconds to go in regulation, there it was - Kimmo Timonen from the point, through a screen, tie game, computers thrown through television sets all across DC. (Or was that just here?)
- It didn't take long for it all to end as just over a minute into overtime, Ruslan Fedotenko - seriously, he's still around - put the puck past Holtby short-side. Game over, loser point in hand.
If you're feeling a bit nauseous after the ups and downs of this one, you're not alone. This was a roller coaster of a game, with a horrible, stomach-flipping drop right at the end as the Caps let one slip through their fingers that they should have won.
The good news, if you want to find it, is that the Caps didn't leave Philly empty-handed. That one point is still crucial, and brings them that much closer to the eighth and final playoff spot - just one point shy of being there, four points out of the division lead. With Carolina looming on Tuesday the Caps need to shake this one off (and perhaps remember how to hold leads) before facing Alexander Semin and friends in Raleigh.