It was an expected wild affair at Verizon Center tonight, but after a rollercoaster of penalty kills and power plays, to many missed chances, and a standout performance by rookie Marcus Johansson, the Capitals eventually fell to the Flyers in a shootout 5-4.
The game started off with chances everywhere. Alex Ovechkin had a breakaway that beat Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, but was unable to beat the post as it rang wide. This would tell the tale of Ovechkin’s whole night, which ended with an assist, a -1 and 3 shots on goal in 22:51 of total ice time (with an average shift length of just over a minute). He also missed when his number came up in the shootout.
As Ovechkin’s mojo troubles continue, it was a different MoJo that stole the show tonight: Marcus Johansson. He was all over the ice and opened the scoring 8:10 into the game with his second career goal. On a line tonight with Jason Chimera and Matt Bradley as Bruce Boudreau continues to shuffle the lines, the trio sustained a high energy level throughout the game. They were hard on the forcheck, and Chimera scored the power play goal that tied the game at 3 near the end of regulation.
Johansson was also given ample penalty kill time tonight, logging 4:20 of shorthanded time (only behind Brooks Liach and Boyd Gordon among forwards). The pairing of him and Laich was often Boudreau’s first forward pairing, and the two generated a few excellent shorthanded chances while not surrendering either of the two goals that the Caps gave up on the PK.
Speaking of penalties, the game was riddled with them, and they oddly increased as the game went on. The Caps took 9 penalties while the Flyers took 7. There were six penalties called in the second and third periods, while only 3 were called in the first. Discipline was a problem for both teams, as untimely trips to the box led to the Flyers’ first lead as well as the Caps’ two third period comebacks.
While Johansson’s goal held up in the first, the Flyers’ scored two quick goals in the second to take a 2-1 lead. They added a third later, entering the third with a 2-goal cushion. That cushion lasted until about halfway through the third period when the Caps scored two quick PPGs to tie the game.
It looked like the Flyers were going to win it when Andreas Nodl scored with just over 6 mins left. Chances looked even slimmer when the Caps had to kill two penalties. However, the Flyers took a penalty of their own, and Eric Fehr scored with 39 seconds left to tie the game at 4 and send it to OT. After killing a penalty in OT, the Caps forced a shootout, where they eventually fell.
This was the first time the Capitals showed flashes of last year’s offensive brilliance. They used their quick-strike capability to come back twice. After a disgraceful showing last night in Atlanta, the Caps didn’t look like a team on the second half of a back-to-back and they fought to get back in their rhythm. In that sense, they succeeded.
Like in Atlanta, the Caps can’t think too hard about this loss. Ovechkin in particular can’t think about how many posts he hit as he continues to struggle to work his way out of his funk. They will face a Parise-less and a Brodeur-less New Jersey Devils team on Monday, a team that is coming off yet another loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. The Caps can’t afford to over look this team, and they must continue to prepare and sacrifice for defense as they look to distance themselves as Eastern Conference leaders.