A crushing hit by Tom Wilson on Brayden Schenn proved to be the turning point Tuesday as the Flyers scored a pair of goals on the five-minute power play that ensued and defeated Washington, 5-2, at Wells Fargo Center. Coach Adam Oates didn’t believe it was a penalty, but Wilson may hear from the NHL Department of Safety about the dangerous charge.
Five thoughts on the loss in Philadelphia.
1. Holtby back in net. It’s been a rough few weeks for Capitals starter Braden Holtby. He has a .887 save percentage and 4.12 goals-against average in his last five starts, dating back to Nov. 30 at the New York Islanders.
Back in net for his first start in a week after Washington leaned on top prospect Philipp Grubauer in three of the previous four games, Holtby stopped 30 of the 35 shots he faced from the Flyers, but it obviously wasn’t a fantastic outing for the 24-year old. Holtby had a failed poke check attempt on the play that led to Wayne Simmonds’s third-period goal and was critical of how he didn’t do enough to battle against the traffic the Flyers created in front of him, which played a role in Philadelphia’s two second-period power-play goals.
“Couple goals because of it, but it doesn’t matter what they do, I have to find a way around it somehow and stop the puck,” Holtby said, adding that he could have played the Philadelphia’s fourth goal differently. “I just moved my angle, trying to fight too hard to find it. Sometimes you just have to be confident in your positioning and make blind saves, and I didn’t do that there.”
While he acknowledged he needed to get back in the groove of a game, Holtby didn’t blame his recent time off for his deficiencies in Philadelphia.
“A little rusty off the start then felt okay, made a couple mistakes and it ended up in the back of the net,” Holtby said. “I don’t think it was a case of being off for a while, I think it was just a case of myself having to be better.”
2. Tough night for Carlson. The Capitals have come to rely on John Carlson more and more in recent seasons, and when Mike Green missed three games in November, it became even more clear that the 23-year old was truly a workhorse in all situations for the team. He leads Washington in average ice time (24:45) and average time shorthanded (4:07) and is second among defenseman in average power-play time (2:35). But with all that playing time, most of which comes against the toughest matchups an opponent has to offer, mistakes are even more noticeable.
Carlson had one of his more difficult outings in recent memory and was on the ice for four of five Philadelphia goals Tuesday night, including all three at even strength. He got caught up ice when the Flyers created a 2-on-1 that led to Jakub Voracek’s first goal of the night, was floating in no-man’s-land around the crease when Matt Read got a third chance at a shot during a scramble in front, and then was undressed by Simmonds as the Flyers winger barreled his way toward the net for a third-period goal.
To be sure, Carlson has been a source of strength for the Capitals in a season which they’ve had to use two to three inexperienced defensemen on most nights. But that’s why the Capitals can ill afford to have him struggle.
3. Who’s next? If Wilson is suspended and Aaron Volpatti, who never returned to the game after suffering an upper-body injury in a fight with Adam Hall, is out as well, the Capitals find themselves looking to fill the fourth line prior to back-to-back games this weekend.
If Mikhail Grabovski returns to the lineup after missing two games with the flu, one would imagine Martin Erat and Jay Beagle shift back to the third and fourth lines, respectively. But that still leaves the question of who would play on the wings if regulars Volpatti and Wilson are out. Casey Wellman, who played in his first NHL game since Jan. 19, 2012 on Tuesday, could potentially shift to fill one of the spots. But from there, its uncertain who the Capitals would call up. Garrett Mitchell recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, which leaves AHL veterans like Jeff Taffe (7G, 7A in 24 games with the Bears) or Dane Byers (4G, 4A in 21 games) perhaps as the next players likely to be summoned from Hershey.
4. This again. It’s gotten to the point where each time the Capitals score a goal this season there should be a two-minute countdown starting from the ensuing faceoff. Sometimes they make it through that immediate window unscathed, but far too often they give up a goal in that stretch. Tuesday night was the latest example.
Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play to give Washington a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds into the second period at Wells Fargo Center but it was short-lived momentum. Jakub Voracek scored on a 2-on-1 just 58 seconds later, marking the 16th time this season the Capitals have given up a goal within two minutes of scoring themselves.
5. One away. Long overshadowed by Wilson’s questionable hit on Schenn and the way the game got away from the Capitals, Ovechkin’s goal was his 28th of the season when he scored on a backhander in front when Steve Mason failed to cover the puck in the crease. It was another opportunistic goal and smart play by Ovechkin, who was in front of the net and able to make the most of the play when Nicklas Backstrom’s pass went off the leg of Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossman. That goal also marked the 399th of his career, moving him just one away from the 400-goal milestone.