When the Washington Capitals’ scratches flashed on the Verizon Center video board before Sunday night’s game, there was audible chatter among fans about who was listed: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik all got the night off.
For the Anaheim Ducks, a Pacific Division title was at stake in this regular season finale. For the Capitals, a Presidents’ Trophy has been secured since March, so staying healthy before the playoffs start later this week was the priority. Washington treated this makeup matchup against Anaheim as one last exhibition. Washington lost, 2-0, not that it really matters anyway.
“It was sort of a typical Game 82,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said.
The Capitals now will turn their attention to their series against the Philadelphia Flyers, which will start Thursday night in Washington.
“I know Philadelphia had a bunch of scouts here tonight,” Trotz said. “I think they had three watching us, but I don’t know if they’ll get a whole lot from that game.”
Had this game been played when it was originally scheduled — Jan. 22 — the full lineups would have been better represented. Instead, a blizzard pushed it until the day after the regular season was supposed to officially end, with both teams traveling to Washington after playing a game in a different time zone Saturday night.
The Capitals had one of their most dominating games against the St. Louis Blues in a 5-1 win that saw Ovechkin reach the 50-goal milestone again with a hat trick and Braden Holtby record his 48th victory to tie Martin Brodeur for the most by a goaltender in a season. Both accomplishments were recognized during Sunday’s game, and fans gave each one a standing ovation with neither player on the ice.
Justin Williams was also honored before the game for reaching 1,000 NHL games played, and clips of that ceremony were replayed during the third period as a highlight of the game — even though it was technically before the puck was dropped.
With those individual achievements out of the way before Sunday, it cleared the way for some players to get a deserved night off. Trotz said some players “got banged up” against the Blues, which is why Washington did an emergency recall of center Zach Sill — meaning three forwards had to be listed as injured.
“They’re all a little banged up,” Trotz said of the players scratched Sunday night. “They came to me and said, ‘I don’t think I can go tonight.’ So we made all the changes, and away we went.”
Beagle was the only player who appeared to suffer an actual injury Saturday, retreating to the locker room in pain after blocking a shot with his left leg. Trotz said before Sunday’s game that Beagle is day-to-day, and he repeated that when he was asked whether Beagle will be available for the playoffs.
“I think that’s in the back of guys’ minds a little bit, being a little bit cautious in certain situations,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “At the same time, it’s still winning and losing a game, and it sucks to lose a game. Guys really wanted to win that.”
Before the game, owner Ted Leonsis tweeted a selfie with Ovechkin, Backstrom and Orpik wearing suits. After a scoreless first period, Ovechkin roamed the press box and then made his way down to the concourse, navigating through fans and handing out some high-fives. In the second period, the inevitable happened for a depleted Capitals lineup against a motivated Ducks one: Anaheim scored two goals to take a lead it didn’t relinquish.
The luxury of a regular season record of 56-18-8 is that the loss was irrelevant. What mattered was that Washington got through the game without appearing to suffer any more injuries. When the team returns to Verizon Center to play the Flyers, the Capitals hope there won’t be any unexpected names listed as scratches.
“I think it’ll be fantastic,” Trotz said Saturday night after the Flyers secured the first-round pairing. “I think both fan bases are passionate, and there’s a good rivalry and a good history for a number of years. I’m looking forward to it.”