“If you want to break down the game into a number of different areas, you are not going to find something that was a positive for us. . . . That is not to our identity,” Reirden said. “That is not who we are, and the score showed what we deserved tonight.”
The Capitals (36-14-5) have lost two of their past three and are 3-3-0 coming out of the all-star break.
Reirden said he has felt the team is not where it needs to be with 27 games left in the regular season. Saturday was a “very good example” of the Capitals’ shortcomings.
“It’s an 82-game season,” he said. “That’s unacceptable. There’s no way around saying that tonight was good; it wasn’t, and now it’s what does our team do as a response? We’ve been good at responding in the past, but we’ll see how it goes on Monday.”
The Capitals on Monday host the New York Islanders — another Metropolitan Division rival and another chance for Ovechkin to reach his milestone.
Saturday’s game turned in the first five minutes of the second period. The score was knotted at 1, then the Flyers found the net three times on four shots in a span of 1:45. Michael Raffl scored the first 2:45 into the period, and Sean Couturier lit the lamp 14 seconds later for his second of the night. Ninety-one seconds later, when things didn’t seem as if they could get worse, they did: James van Riemsdyk beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby with a one-handed deflection to make it 4-1.
All three goals came at even strength, sparked by gaping defensive lapses and costly turnovers. The Capitals were gifted three power-play opportunities in the final 11 minutes of the period but came up empty.
The third period began with more of the same. The Flyers scored three times in the first 8:02, with the last goal sending Holtby to the bench and the fans to the exits.
“We didn’t really execute well,” Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas said. “We made some plays that they turned over right away, and they had some quick strikes. We didn’t play smart, and at the start of the second with the puck we made some turnovers that cost us right away. And right after each other, shift after shift. It swung the momentum their way.”
Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored only 2:58 into the third period, Travis Konecny made it 6-1 less than three minutes later, and Claude Giroux’s tally at 8:02 on a five-on-three power play ended Holtby’s night. Rookie backup Ilya Samsonov replaced him in net.
Aube-Kubel’s goal was one of the most egregious of the evening, coming off yet another Capitals turnover in the defensive zone. Michal Kempny’s pass went off Evgeny Kuznetsov’s stick, and the puck found Aube-Rubel in the left circle.
Holtby (20-11-4) allowed seven goals on 25 shots and lost for the fourth time in his past seven appearances. But Saturday’s loss was not all on the goaltender, an opinion stressed by Reirden and the players in the dressing room.
“We let him down for sure,” Gudas said. “It’s definitely not his fault. He played great, I think, this game, and opportunities we gave them, he didn’t really have much — with the breakaway, right, early in the game. He was holding us in there. I think he gave us opportunity to win this game, but we didn’t perform well enough for him to get the two points earlier.”
Kuznetsov got one back for Washington with 7:43 left, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Ovechkin, chasing his milestone, got plenty of third-period ice time but finished with just two shots on goal. The captain had been on the best heater of his career, scoring 14 goals in his previous seven games. Saturday, in front of a packed home crowd, was looking like the night he would finally join Mike Gartner, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in the 700-goal club.
But history would have to wait.
The Capitals were chasing the game from Couturier’s opening goal on the power play with 4:38 left in the first period. The hosts answered on the man advantage when T.J. Oshie converted with 1:42 left in the opening frame, his 20th of the season and eighth on the power play. The Capitals came up empty on their final three power-play chances.
Oshie was moved to the top line Saturday night after playing most of the past two months with the second unit.
Other changes included a shake-up on the blue line, with young defenseman Martin Fehervary joining the lineup and playing on the second pairing with Dmitry Orlov, leaving Nick Jensen a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Fehervary recorded his first NHL point with the secondary assist on Kuznetsov’s tally.
“I’m happy for the point, but the more important thing is that we lost the game, and that is what I am looking at,” Fehervary said. “I felt good, to be honest. I felt good physically and everything. But it wasn’t a great game by the whole team, and I am part of the team, so, I mean, can’t really say I was good.”
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