It took more than 50 minutes, but the Washington Capitals finally flipped on the power to their game Sunday afternoon, just as the Philadelphia Flyers had appeared to put the contest out of reach.
Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov and Alex Ovechkin all scored in the final 8 minutes 40 seconds of regulation to tie the game and push Washington toward a 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers at Verizon Center. It marked the second time in a week that the Capitals have rallied to erase a three-goal deficit and gone on to win in a shootout.
“I think we have luck on our side today, especially end of the game. We’ll take it,” said Ovechkin, whose league-leading 27th goal of the season tied the game in dramatic fashion with 47.9 seconds left in the third.
Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr both scored in the shootout, which has become a familiar course for the Capitals. A third of Washington’s games have been decided in the tiebreak and the team boasts the best shootout record in the league at 8-3.
But to even reach the point where they could secure a pair of points, the Capitals first needed to take control after ceding it to Philadelphia. The Flyers took a 4-1 lead less than four minutes into the third period when Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek scored 74 seconds apart.
Gradually the Capitals started to show signs of life, and when Green flung an unassuming wrister on net from high in the offensive zone, they got the encouragement they needed to begin another comeback. Green’s shot found its way through traffic in front and beat Flyers netminder Steve Mason (29 saves) to cut the deficit to 4-2 with 11:20 gone in the third.
“I think that the guys showed some character tonight,” said Green, who personally bounced back after turning the puck over on the play that led to Philadelphia’s third goal. “Obviously, we didn’t want to be in the position we were, but it’s important that we never give up and it’s a prime example tonight. We get two points. It was an unusual game, but we’ll take them.”
With less than four minutes left in regulation, Joel Ward tied up Couturier on a faceoff, allowing Fehr to gain control of the puck and send it back to Orlov, a 22-year-old defenseman, on the point. Orlov blasted a one-timer past Mason glove-side, and suddenly it was 4-3 with 3:31 remaining.
Coach Adam Oates “come in before third period and say for us defenseman, to shoot from strong side,” Orlov said. “So when Fehrsie give me good pass, I just shoot it. [Mason] might not have been ready for the shot.”
Then the Capitals’ only real opponent was the clock as they vied to obtain a point against the Flyers, whom they will face again on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Those moments seem to be tailor-made for Ovechkin this season. There’s a confidence and swagger in his shot, and even when a play doesn’t go exactly as he might script it, things tend to work out in his favor.
The final minute of play already had been announced when Mason went behind his own net to play the puck but had his pass picked off by Ward along the side boards. Ward sent a pass to the high slot that met Ovechkin as he swooped into the zone, and the Capitals’ star winger managed to get a shot off as Flyers winger Matt Read dived in front of him. As the puck hit the back of the netting, Ovechkin danced toward the boards and met his teammates with an exuberant leap.
“I just want to shoot the puck out there. To be honest, I miss my shot. It’s kind of funny, but it was perfect miss. I’ll take it. The team take it,” Ovechkin said. “I didn’t get all of it. . . . Greenie was in front of me, so I tried to kind of reach out. As soon as I get it I just shoot it and ice condition, it’s not that perfect but who cares right now?”
Capitals notes: Brooks Laich (right groin) was placed on long-term injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 27. The earliest he would be eligible to return is Dec. 22. . . .
John Erskine (left knee) was activated from injured reserve and played his first game since Oct. 26. . . .
Washington recalled center Michael Latta from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears and reassigned defenseman Nate Schmidt to that same club on Sunday. Latta suffered a lower-body injury in the third period and didn’t finish the game. . . .
Mikhail Grabovski missed Sunday’s game with the flu.