Sluggish start sets tone for Capitals against Flyers

February 28, 2013

(Associated Press)

The Capitals arrived in Philadelphia hoping to build off of their modest two-game winning streak. It was clear from the drop of the puck at Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night, though, that Washington’s momentum had stalled.

While Washington dispatched of an injury-plagued Hurricanes squad easily Tuesday night, it didn’t have any type of spark against the Flyers en route to a 4-1 loss in the second of back-to-back games.

“I talked to the guys. As I said, Carolina had a lot of injuries on the blue line, and it helped us. We still played a good game, but it was disappointing to come out the way we did tonight,” Coach Adam Oates said. “I thought we’d have more…obviously, getting behind early, that fast, was difficult.”

In the first 4 minutes 4 seconds the Capitals not only looked listless, but it was reflected on the scoreboard in the form of a two-goal deficit. Flyers captain Claude Giroux scored on the first shift, just 23 seconds into the contest, and then Wayne Simmonds made it 2-0 on the power play less than four minutes later.

While one team looked eager to keep pace in the Eastern Conference with energetic and aggressive play, the other looked to be skating in quicksand. The Capitals seemed a step behind Philadelphia from the beginning, unable to win battles for loose pucks or make the hustle plays like successfully clearing the defensive zone or establishing a cycle that have helped them in recent contests.

“I think it was a tough start from our side. They scored on first shift and then power play goal at the first chance too,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We looked like we didn’t have a lot today, unfortunately.”

Arguably the most disconcerting part, though, wasn’t that the Capitals fell behind early but that they never found a way to respond. There wasn’t any pushback, any surge of energy to mount a comeback or any attempt to actually challenge the Flyers’ advantage. Sure, Joel Ward scored in the final three minutes of regulation but the contest was out of reach long before then.

Alex Ovechkin dismissed the notion that it was difficult to play catch-up after giving up two goals so quickly in the game.

“You still have 60 minutes, like 55 minutes left,” Ovechkin said. “You just have to stick to the plan. But maybe tired. Maybe we just don’t have that kind of jump like we have couple games. It happen. We have to forget it and just move forward.”

Several Capitals and Oates cited fatigue’s role in the defeat. It’s not all that surprising it was a factor given that it was the second night of back-to-back games, but it’s still not an excuse that teams like to lean on.

“It’s our first bad game in a while, and I think it was all of us,” Oates said. “I think we looked a little tired, and we didn’t have enough fight to fight back through them. I think it’s a little bit of a product of the league right now because of the lockout, the schedule. I think teams are tired, and we’ll chalk it up to that and find ways to work on stuff.”

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Katie Carrera | February 27, 2013