|Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||6-3-3||Craig Anderson||5.45 / .750|
|Philadelphia Flyers||8-3-2||Carter Hart||4.00 / .892|
TLDR: Ovechkin tallied two, top line scores a combined 11 points, and Capitals kill off a four-minute penalty, but still fall to Flyers in regulation, 7-4. Scott Laughton tallied his first career hat-trick. With three straight regulation losses, the Caps have failed to earn a point of six possible.
With a win, the Capitals could improve their all-time Super Bowl Sunday wins record to 18, which would put them in second for most in league history behind the Canadiens. Washington would also take 2nd place in the MassMutual East division if they won. TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana did not dress for the Capitals on Sunday, but Lars Eller was expected to return to the lineup after missing four games. Head-coach Laviolette would not commit to any roster decisions ahead of puck drop, nor would be promise an 18-man lineup. Philippe Maillet made his NHL debut, and is the fourth player this season to do so (Vanecek, Pinho, McMichael). Daniel Carr was also recalled from the taxi squad to the Caps roster. Oshie is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury and Vrana, the COVID Protocol Absence list.
Carter Hart got the start for the Flyers after missing last game vs the Bruins with back-spasms (not great on the road, 10-15-2 in 31 GP, 1-1-1 all-time vs the Caps). Sean Couturier returned for the Flyers; the center hasn’t played since January 15th.
The Capitals started out hot and heavy in the first period, playing a very physical game as we would expect between these two teams. Vitek Vanecek was forced to make a number of saves early on, but the shots from the Flyers didn’t seem to be much of a challenge for January’s rookie of the month. Despite Philadelphia being one of the top faceoff teams in the league, Washington won 9 of 16 faceoffs in the first period (56.3%). Nick Jensen, who had been a healthy scratch before Justin Schultz was hurt, was oddly really good to start. He made some extremely valuable plays in front of Vanecek that had it not been for his blocks, easily would have ended up as Philly goals.
At the 10:48 mark, the Flyers were called for too-many-men, and so the Capitals received their first power play of the afternoon. Not even 30 seconds into the man-advantage, Alex Ovechkin from his office, beat Carter Hart to make it 1-0 with his 4th of the season. Hart would be the 144th different goaltender Ovechkin has scored on in the NHL.
Then, just over five minutes later with less than four minutes left in the period, a slick curl-and-drag pass from Ovi to Nicklas Backtrom tipped to Tom Wilson ended up in the net to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, just prior to the expiration of the first, Scott Laughton got his team on the board to cut the Caps’ lead in half. Washington led with 15 shots on goal to the Flyers eight (8) to end the first period.
The second period wasn’t great for the Capitals nor the Flyers, as both teams gave up a combined five goals. Just 2:29 into the middle frame, Scott Laughton tallied his 2nd of the game to tie it, 2-2. But two minutes later, just beyond the four-minute mark, Alex Ovechkin scored his 2nd of the game, from the blueline, to re-instate the Caps’ lead, 3-2.
Nic Dowd was called for interference shortly thereafter, but Washington successfully kept the Flyers’ 10th-best power play off the board. Justin Braun nearly tied it again as his shot rang off the post behind Vanecek. But shortly thereafter, Robert Hagg did tie it as he scored at the 7:50 mark to put up Philadelphia’s 3rd goal on just 12 shots. With 6:43 remaining, the Flyers went back on the power play as birthday boy Richard Panik went off for tripping. Washington killed off that penalty, as well.
At the 16:36 mark of the middle frame, exactly 20 minutes after Tom Wilson’s goal, James van Riemsdyk scored his 7th of the season to give his team a 4-3 lead. Vitek Vanecek, who should not and cannot be exclusively blamed for the four goals against, was relieved of his duties and so for the first time this season, we saw Craig Anderson assume his spot between the pipes.
While Washington has had a bad time giving up leads lately, the Flyers have as well. Philadelphia blew leads in each of their last two games versus Boston to drop both. With 57 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Nicklas Backstrom re-tied the game with a slip-through, spin-o-rama backhand to score his 6th goal in 12 games.
The top line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson put up a combined 11 points through 40 minutes, and the score remained tied 4-4 heading into the third period. Would Anderson hold his own to mark his first ‘win’ of the season, and keep Vanecek out of hot water, for now?
Just 31 seconds into the third period, Sean Couturier scored to give the Flyers back their lead, this time, 5-4. Then, to make matters worse, Zdeno Chara was called for high-sticking and assessed a double minor, so the Flyers played with the man-advantage for four minutes.
Somehow, the Capitals killed off the 4th straight penalty, but still trailed by one with just over 11 minutes remaining. With 9:30 remaining, Philadelphia still led, and it became more and more likely that Washington would drop a 3rd straight game. With just over 120 seconds remaining, Scott Laughton scored his 3rd of the game to score his first career hat-trick. 1:55 left and the Caps’ goal was vacated for the extra-skater, and Couturier potted an empty net goal to make it 7-4. With the loss, Washington dropped a third straight game and failed to snag even a single point of six possible.
Prior to being pulled, Vitek Vanecek allowed four goals on 14 shots (.714 SV%). Anderson allowed two goals on eight shots (.750 SV%), and the loss was his to mark.
TXHT’s Three Takeaways
- Caps need to tighten up their defense; they cannot allow 4-5 goals every game.
- Penalty kill remains strong
- Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson put up a combined 11 points
NBCSN, ESPN+, NBC Sports Washington, and NBC Sports will have coverage of Capitals vs Flyers, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 6:00pm.
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