The Capitals went to Philadelphia without their leading scorer and captain but came away with a 7-0 win that featured goals by four different players and quite the full fight card.
Five thoughts on the Capitals’ win in Philadelphia.
1. A hat trick for Joel Ward. Before all the fisticuffs in the third period, veteran winger Joel Ward scored his third goal of the night to record his first career hat trick in the 366th regular season game of his career.
“As a kid I’ve always dreamed about scoring big goals, trying to getting a hat trick, or even to win the Stanley Cup,” Ward said. “It was a good feeling, I can’t deny that. I felt really good. I got a couple of good passes. Chimmer gave me that last one right on my stick; I didn’t have to do much. The fact that we got the big win on top of that was an even better feeling.”
Ward now has five goals in the past six games and, as was the case in Edmonton on Oct. 14, the official scorers didn’t realize he had scored one of his tallies.
His first goal came after a 3-on-2 that the third line worked down low. Flyers defenseman Mark Streit failed to clear the puck from in front of the crease with Mikhail Grabovski and Ward standing just outside the paint and ready to knock a rebound in. The goal was originally awarded to Grabovski but was later changed to Ward, who did get the last whack at the puck.
“Again, I get caught with my linemates celebrating harder than I do. I didn’t know what to say to him. I wasn’t really concerned about it at the time,” Ward said. “I didn’t think about it until I heard my named called and they changed it. I knew I got a whack on it, but I didn’t want to cause a scene.”
The second goal was a wicked shot that beat Ray Emery high glove side. The third came with another quick-release shot, this time from his spot out in front on the power play.
Here’s the hat trick
2. Third line magic. Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Mikhail Grabovski have been on a line for six games. In that time they have 11 goals and 12 assists, including nine goals and 11 assists at even strength.
In addition to Ward’s hat trick, Chimera continued his tear by recording his fourth goal in as many games with a pretty shot past Steve Mason’s glove and three assists. Grabovski added three assists of his own.
“We’ve just been rolling. Chim has been flying and has been getting some big goals for us. We’ve just been trying to go North-South,” Ward said. “I know we keep saying the same thing, but it’s paying attention to details. It’s been working out.”
Whether it’s saying the same thing or playing the same way every time they hit the ice, this group has found its groove. (For those who may have missed it, check out the story from last week on how Chimera and Ward approach their roles.)
“I think they’ve got confidence, that’s probably the biggest thing and they know where to put the puck and support each other,” Coach Adam Oates said. “Shift after shift they are willing to do the same exact thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but the very next shift you go right back in there put it in the same spot and maybe they break down and you get a chance.”
3. First goal. On a night where seven goals are scored and 164 penalty minutes are racked up, the first marker might be forgotten. Not this one. The Capitals went the first 15:05 without a shot on goal but a few minutes afterward the drought was forgotten as a series of smart plays led to one heck of a snap shot by Nicklas Backstrom put them up 1-0.
Rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt made a heads up and coordinated play at the blueline to keep the puck in the zone with his skate and then tapped it to Martin Erat in open space near the top of the zone. When the puck didn’t cross the blueline it took a second for every Flyer on the ice to recover, but by that time Erat had passed to Backstrom for a shot from the right circle.
When the Capitals are able to keep their offensive possessions alive and extend their time in an opponent’s zone, eventually they can force a breakdown. It’s just getting enough execution on Washington’s end to make that happen. Friday night the Capitals certainly weren’t wanting for crisp offensive play.
Check out the video of the first goal, that’s one heck of a play by Schmidt at the blueline.
4. Holtby. Even before he was an unwilling participant in a third period brawl, Braden Holtby had a busy night. He finished with 30 saves for his eighth career shutout and did a solid job early on when it looked like the Capitals’ first-period woes might continue with Philadelphia dictating possession in the early going.
He had some help from the penalty kill, which went a perfect 5-for-5, as Washington had to thwart two minors in the first 13 minutes and an overall effort that helped make most of the Flyers’ chances the non-threatening variety. The Capitals have been giving up a lot of shots this season. Only twice have they allowed fewer than 30 and while Holtby faced that many on Friday, it didn’t seem like the workload was anywhere near as significant as what he faced during four games in Western Canada. Or perhaps it’s more a reflection on the Flyers themselves.
Regardless, Holtby was appreciative of his teammates’ effort.
“We had two kills in the first period. I thought we did a really good job of it, especially with our shot blocking,” Holtby said. “You want to get a few shots to get you in the game. At the same time, you don’t want them to be grade-A scoring chances, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
5. Special teams. After going three games without a power play goal, Washington cashed in twice with seven tries with goals from Ward and Troy Brouwer on the man advantage against the Flyers.
“We’ve been doing a lot of the right things on the PP, we just haven’t been able to get things going. Teams are keying on us because we’ve had a top PP for the past couple of seasons,” Brouwer said. “We’ve got to give them new looks, we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to find ways to make our plays, get our looks, get our shots, and tonight I think we did that.”
More impressive, though, is the continued success of the penalty kill. Washington has thwarted 30 consecutive penalties against and, for the first time since 2002, hasn’t given up a power play goal in eight games.