“I don’t think it was dirty at all. I think it’s a product of our whole game, quite honestly,” Oates said. “Thirty seconds left, the game is over and Matty thought he could stick-handle through the team. It’s not what we do — all of us tonight, you know, guys are sitting there waiting for you, and you get hit.”
From the outset, Washington was a step behind the Flyers. Whether beaten to loose pucks or chasing their opponents, they struggled even to find the oomph required to clear the puck out of the defensive zone consistently.
The Capitals looked every bit the part of an exhausted team playing the second of back-to-back nights, allowing two goals in the first 4 minutes 4 seconds and having little response to that sudden deficit. Starting goaltender Braden Holtby was chased from the net in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots. It was exactly the type of flat outing that Washington (7-11-1) can’t afford if it is to maintain hope of moving up from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
“We didn’t play good at all. Just got outworked. It definitely seemed like we played the night before, mentally and physically just weren’t going,” said defenseman Karl Alzner, who was on the ice for three of the Flyers’ goals. “It looked like at least mentally, in my opinion, we weren’t executing on the plays that we have been in the past few games and that wasn’t a good effort by us.”
Oates originally wanted to start Michal Neuvirth against the Flyers to give Holtby, 23, a break after starting each of the previous seven contests. But when Neuvirth fell ill and the Capitals made an emergency recall summoning top prospect Philipp Grubauer to serve as backup, Oates turned to Holtby once more.
It was tough to blame the first three goals on Holtby, who was moving across the crease trying to block shots from unguarded Flyers or facing bouncing rebound chances. But when a long-range slap shot by Max Talbot blasted under his left arm 14 minutes and 55 seconds into the second period to make it 4-0 Flyers, Holtby was hooked.
“I think he did the right thing. Obviously, four goals down, you want a spark, and that’s a goal I can’t give up on the fourth one,” Holtby said. “You have to expect that to come. Obviously you never want to leave a game; I’d love to finish every game. But at that point, you’re looking for a spark.”