That seemed to signal a momentum shift for the Capitals in game they started by sputtering. About a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov drew a penalty by Brandon Manning, who held Kuznetsov’s stick when Kuznetsov had a puck at his feet directly in front of the Philadelphia net. Thirty-seven seconds into the ensuing power play, John Carlson ripped a wrist shot from the point, and it cleanly navigated its way into the net. The Capitals went on to win, 4-1.
With his power-play goal on Saturday night, Ovechkin now has one point in this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. But his bruising play has given Washington the biggest edge, a key reason why the Capitals have won the first two games against the Flyers.
“Sometimes you just have to play physical,” Ovechkin said. “If you don’t have an opportunity to do something else, you play physical. You play simple and the other guys are going to follow you.”
In the first game between the teams, Ovechkin significantly impacted the series with one hit. He slammed center Sean Couturier into the boards, and the upper-body injury Couturier suffered on that hit will have him out for the rest of the series, a crushing blow to a Flyers team that doesn’t have the forward depth the Capitals do. Couturier is also Philadelphia’s best defensive forward, and he would’ve likely been tasked with trying to contain Ovechkin. Some considered him a Selke Trophy candidate.
After Washington parted with wingers Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer in the offseason, adding T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to their lineup instead, the Capitals got a significant upgrade in skill, but they lost weight in their top-six forwards corps. Oshie and Williams are two of the smaller forwards on the team, and while they play aggressively, their hits aren’t as bruising as ones from bigger players. It now fell on Ovechkin.
“We’re a little bit different, but we can still be heavy,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said before the playoffs started. “It’s got to be commitment. Like when Ovi plays heavy, we’re a heavy team. Here’s your star player who can do things that other guys can’t. In the playoffs, Ovi’s going to have to be heavy to be effective.”