Five thoughts on the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers

March 3

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Capitals were in control of the game, with a two-goal lead and 10 minutes away from forcing their way back into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference Sunday afternoon when an undisciplined boarding by Dmitry Orlov resulted in a five minute major penalty and allowed Philadelphia to shift the balance and go on to a 5-4 overtime win.

Five thoughts on the loss to the Flyers.

1. What lead? While Orlov’s penalty played a critical role in giving the Flyers life Sunday afternoon, the loss marked the continuation of a damaging trend for the Capitals. They’ve blown two-goal leads 14 11 times this season, three times (twice against Florida and once against Philadelphia) since returning from the Olympic break.

While it doesn’t always cost them a victory – they’re 4-3-3 in games in which they’ve coughed up a two-goal advantage – it’s a self-destructive trend that the Capitals can’t seem to learn how to stop.

“We’ve done it too many times. We almost don’t want two goal leads the way we’re playing with them right now,” Eric Fehr said. “I don’t know what it is, if we shut our brains off for a little bit or think the game’s over. In this league we should have learned by now the games are far from over.”

Fehr said what I’d imagine everyone who watches this team regularly thinks, that a two-goal lead might be the most uncomfortable state the Capitals can find themselves in. They’ve shown an ability to play from behind, to push for a game-winning goal and even hang on to a lead like when they finished off a win against the Bruins Saturday. But a two-goal lead in the early stages of a contest seems to spell trouble as the Capitals lose focus and undo what got them to that point.

More on the Capitals’ propensity to give away those leads in Tuesday’s paper.

2. Holtby. One of the bright spots in the early stages of this game was the play of Braden Holtby. Early in the second as the Flyers pushed for a tying goal he made dazzling saves, first an acrobatic toe stop on Wayne Simmonds with 1:40 gone and then later a poke check of Claude Giroux in the slot at 7:15.

There were any number of other quality and timely saves in the 31 stops he made against the Flyers as well but those two showed the netminder at his confident best, something that hasn’t always been the case this season. The more concerning part of those stops was the defensive play that allowed those top scoring chances to occur, which will test any goaltender’s ability to bail out their teammates.

Here’s the save on Simmonds.

3. No goal. Sixty-three seconds after the Capitals took a 2-1 lead they nearly upped the advantage again. Nicklas Backstrom’s shot trickled through Steve Mason’s pads and incredibly close to the goal line but just as it threatened to cross it, Flyers defenseman Mark Streit swatted the puck away. It was called no-goal on the ice but video review and multiple photos of the play certainly cast doubts that it should have been a goal.

But the NHL’s video review was inconclusive in determining if the shot completely crossed the line, so the call on the ice stood.

4. Net-front presence. Remember watching the Olympics and wondering why the Capitals couldn’t create traffic in front the way the United States did? In these first three games out of the break they’ve made a much more deliberate and concerted effort to establish an effective net front presence. Both Marcus Johansson’s and Jay Beagle’s goals came from the Capitals setting up in front and they scored that way in Florida too.

Johansson’s tally came when the fleet-footed forward drove to the blue paint and received a smooth pass from Jason Chimera in the corner for a tap in. (Talk about a role reversal.)

Beagle’s resulted from him and Joel Ward both making their way to the crease and stopping there, not skating past the high-traffic high-contact area. Mike Green put the puck on net and Ward was able to corral it and send a backhander over to Beagle after recognizing that he was unguarded to the left side of the cage.

5. Lost opportunity. Yes, there are 20 games left and the Capitals are only one point out of a playoff spot but they let an important four-point game and a chance to leapfrog Philadelphia slip through their fingers. Washington doesn’t own the first tiebreaker against any of the other contenders in the Eastern Conference and is already trying to make up lost ground. Squandering these types of chances, particularly in games that they controlled for a significant portion, isn’t the way to find their way into the postseason.

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