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For the third straight game, the Capitals surrendered the first goal of the game, only to tie the game later. But this time, there would be no more offense — Wayne Simmonds' early third-period goal stood up as the game-winner in Philadelphia's 3-1 win at Verizon Center.
Sunday evening's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Al Koken played every role at some point today — play-by-play, color, ice-level reporter, and postgame host — as part of a CSN commemoration for him in his 30th season covering the Capitals, and, as usual, did a great job in all of them.
- Minus: The offense. Through two periods, the Caps had all of 10 shots on goal, thanks to a couple of extended lulls. The Caps didn't so much as attempt a shot until nearly 12 minutes (!) into the first period. Afterward, in the 10 minutes of game time after Alex Ovechkin tied the game in the second, Washington got all of two shots toward the net (both blocked).
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- Coming into the game, the Caps and Flyers both ranked in the top 12 in goals scored in the first, but while the Caps were top-10 in goals against, Philadelphia was in the bottom 10. So it came as a bit of a surprise that the Caps went over half the first period with literally nothing going offensively—zero shot attempts—despite having a couple of power plays. The Flyers didn’t dominate the first territorially, but Washington simply could not string together passes in the offensive zone for much of the game.
- On Jan. 14, Matt Niskanen caught Scott Laughton with his head down. On Sunday, they dropped the gloves after a faceoff in the first period. Laughton said he wanted to pay back Niskanen for missed time (eight games) as a result of that hit. Niskanen fights once or twice a season; that was Laughton’s first in the NHL.
- No bad blood was lost between these teams today. In addition to the Niskanen-Laughton fight, there were a few post-whistle scrums. Jason Chimera also drew a retaliation cross-checking penalty early in the game. Late in the third, Sean Couturier spun around Evgeny Kuznetsov on his way to the bench. Kuznetsov fell awkwardly and wasn’t able to get to the bench until after the referee blew the play dead. He stayed in the game, though.
- Going into the first intermission, the Caps looked like they were getting back into the game. But that was an illusion. The Flyers started the second period like the first, but this time got on the scoreboard in the first minute. Claude Giroux won the puck on the forecheck, and sent it back to Michael Del Zotto at the point. Del Zotto went d-to-d to Mark Streit, whose long wrist shot hit a stick and went past Braden Holtby.
- Ranked 28th in the NHL in efficiency, Philadelphia's penalty kill should have been no match for Washington's deadly power play. But the Flyers' PK was excellent all night, earning four shot attempts — including one on a 2-on-0 by Couturier — before the Caps even got one. In the second, Philadelphia killed an 81-second five-on-three as well. The Flyers did a terrific job making zone entries difficult and taking away passing lanes, both on the PK and at 5-on-5.
- As it turns out, the Caps finally got a power play goal on a broken play in the second period. After the expiry of the five-on-three, Nicklas Backstrom couldn’t control the puck cleanly in the corner. The Flyers converged, but Kuznetsov got to the puck first and threaded a quick pass across to the slot to Ovechkin. Ovechkin took a moment to corral the puck before wristing a shot past Ray Emery, who had come in to replace an injured Steve Mason moments earlier.
- The Capitals went into yet another offensive lull after tying the game back up, taking nearly 12 minutes to register their next shot on goal.
- Simmonds made them pay. Matt Read and Couturier combined to get Simmonds the puck in stride on the Caps' half of the red line. Simmonds caught Alzner flat-footed, went wide, and wristed a shot past Holtby.
- Although the Caps have been pretty good this season when trailing, but in this game didn't really start generating pressure until the final 10 minutes — and even then, went quiet for about two-and-a-half minutes in that span.
- Lastly, considering the Caps got the first six power plays of the game, it probably wasn't too surprising that Tom Wilson was called for one with under 80 seconds to play that effectively ended Washington's comeback hope. Jakub Voracek scored an empty-netter to pull back into the league lead in points, tied with Patrick Kane and (at the time of this writing) Tyler Seguin.
There's no way to sugarcoat this performance: It was ugly. That said, considering what this team showed in its first 53 games this season, it's also likely just an aberration. Every team has these sorts of games. The trick for the Capitals will be to bounce back to play some of their best hockey on their upcoming California road trip.