The Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit for the second time in a week Sunday as they scored three goals in the final 8:40 of regulation, including a tying goal in the final minute by Alex Ovechkin, to propel themselves to a 5-4 shootout win over the Flyers.
Five thoughts on the win over the Flyers:
1. Mike Green giveth and taketh away. The two sides of Mike Green are puzzling. On one hand he can make terrific outlet passes and has the ability to find shooting lanes when none seem available, like when he scored in the third period against the Flyers when he floated a wrister on net to spark Washington’s rally.
But then he also makes costly turnovers or has one mistake carry over into other plays. Against Philadelphia, when he bobbled the puck in the corner of the defensive zone early in the third period, it allowed Sean Couturier to snatch it away and fire a bad-angle shot that put the Flyers up 3-1.
“The Zamboni gate corner is a very difficult corner because the ice gets so lousy there and I think, personally, he was just trying to make too much of a play there,” Oates said. He needs to be “a little bit more simple on that situation but he also maybe felt that he was by himself, his partner got caught up. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it. But I thought he was way more engaged in the game, some really good decisions with the puck, some really good outlets, big goal for us.”
It’s been an especially rough stretch of three games for Green. He earned 18 penalty minutes in the first 12 minutes of the game against Tampa Bay during which the Lightning scored twice; against Florida, his turnover led to a goal by Aleksander Barkov and then against the Flyers he made it far too easy for Couturier to be able to gain possession of the puck and score as well.
Mistakes are bound to happen especially for anyone who averages the type of ice time (23:40) that Green does. But at the same time, any player who is tasked with that type of responsibility must find a way to minimize significant errors. For Green, it may be all about simplicity.
“For a guy of his caliber, expectations are you’ve got to go end to end and you just can’t do that in hockey any more, you can’t,” Oates said. “To have sometimes the ability to make so many decisions, but there’s just a simple one available. It’s hard to convince the guys to take a simple one. Like a five-on-three power play, just to get the puck in the net you think you need this perfect play and perfect plays don’t score. They just don’t.”
2. Another step up for a young defenseman. Dmitry Orlov recorded his first goal of the season in the second period when he scored off a faceoff win by Joel Ward to cut Washington’s deficit to 4-3 against the Flyers.
“Oatesy come in before third period and say for us defenseman, to shoot from strong side,” Orlov said. “So when Fehrsie give me good pass I just shoot it . [Mason] might not have been ready for the shot.”
Orlov skated for 21:08 Sunday, fired three shots on goal, was credited with one hit and was on the ice for two of Washington’s four goals. He’s appeared in all seven contests since he was recalled on Nov. 30 and appears to be growing in confidence, as he is making decisions to move up in the play but also making crisp passes in his own end.
“It’s huge goal for him. I think he play, right now, very well for us. Defensively he’s playing with confidence and he’s probably one of the top guy out there right now,” Alex Ovechkin said of his fellow countryman. “Play solid, not afraid to take the puck and make a move, shoot the puck well, make a pass. He’s good and maybe he’s going to be in future Olympics.”
Granted, Orlov can still improve in his own end, as Oates reminds regularly. There was one particularly rough shift for the 22-year-old against the Flyers that saw him get danced around by Michael Raffl and then turn the puck over in the neutral zone. But there’s been enough in Orlov’s game that the Capitals opted to keep him in Washington when John Erskine returned Sunday.
“I’ve seen the offensive plays, I’ve seen the shot,” Oates said. “The more he plays correct in our end the more he’ll become a regular player. He’s a good player, he’s got the ability to become a real good hockey player and we want consistency in our end.”
3. Erskine returns. Speaking of John Erskine, he skated 12:50 in his first game back from a left knee injury that sidelined him since Oct. 26. He said he made it through the contest no worse for wear but noticed the cardiovascular deficit that comes from not playing in nearly two months.
“Felt pretty good, tried to keep the shifts short to get my legs back into it,” Erskine said.
Erskine was on the ice for two goals against, Claude Giroux’s late in the first period and Couturier’s in the third.
4. Get well Grabovski. While Jay Beagle did help to set up a few chances while filling in on the second line Sunday, the lack of Mikhail Grabovski’s dynamic playmaking ability at both ends was apparent. Grabovski, who sat out with flu-like symptoms, has a presence that gives Washington more of a potent scoring threat on any given line and during the stretches where it couldn’t get much going offensively against the Flyers it was hard not to wonder how much of a difference he might have made in the early stages of the game.
5. Grubauer. The young netminder came back down to Earth a bit in his fourth consecutive appearance. While Philipp Grubauer was superb early on, especially on the penalty kill when he came cross-crease twice to stop Couturier and then Jakub Voracek, he’d like to have the third Flyers’ tally back certainly.
Couturier scored on a bad-angle shot that squeaked in as Grubauer hugged the left post – it seems this is the type of soft goal seen most often from the Capitals netminders as a group. But he managed to come through with two stops in the shootout to help Washington snag a victory.
“Less is more up here. Less is way more up here,” Grubauer said of the lessons he’s learned during his first extended stint in the NHL. “It’s what I’ll try to work on down there in Hershey if I get sent down. I’m happy with the games I’ve played up here.”