After an unexpected extended break from playing hockey, due to the blizzard that forced the cancellation of two games, the Capitals returned to action against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday January 26.
After that game came the All Star Break. The players who were selected for the All Star team would fly to Nashville to play in the game on Sunday January 31. The remaining players would either go home or go on a vacation trip, usually to a warmer climate.
Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers (January 26)
Prior to playing the Caps, the Flyers had lost their previous 3 games. However, they had won 5 out of their last 6 before that. Overall, the Flyers have struggled this year and were in 7th place, behind the Carolina Hurricanes, but ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers started Michal Neuvirth in goal, who is “technically” their backup (to Steve Mason) but, since he has been playing better than Mason, he is starting more frequently. Neuvirth is also a former Capital, having played for Washington from 2009-2014. For the Caps, it was a milestone game for Karl Alzner where he broke the team’s record for consecutive games played, playing in his 423rd consecutive game, breaking the record held by Bob Carpenter, set back in the 1980’s.
The game did not begin well for the Caps. Tom Wilson received a penalty for interference at 4:48 against Sam Gagner. Only 6 seconds into the Flyers’ power play, Braden Schenn scored, with assists by Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Caps got into an even deeper hole when Ryan White scored at 11:11 unassisted. For that goal, Kuznetsov had the puck on his backhand and inadvertently passed to White who then scored.
The Caps were thus down 2-0 at the end of the first period. It was one of those periods where the passes were not crisp and pucks were frequently turned over. Perhaps it was because of their long and unexpected layoff that was caused by the blizzard.
The second period started off much better for the Caps as they dominated play. They scored at 7:39 on a wrist shot by Andre Burakovsky, assisted by Nate Schmidt.
Less than a minute later, at 8:34, Nicklas Backstrom scored on a snap shot that went over Neuvirth’s shoulder, setup on a great pass from T.J. Oshie.
But the latter part of the period was marked by not one but two penalties on Caps goalie Braden Holtby, the first for tripping. They were able to kill off the first of those penalties but soon after killing that penalty, the Flyers regained the lead at 17:39 on a goal by Jakub Voracek that was assisted by Claude Giroux.
Almost immediately after that, Holtby got his second penalty of the period, a delay of game penalty, which the Caps were, fortunately able to kill.
The Caps tied the game just under 4 minutes into the third period, when Andre Burakovsky scored his 2nd goal of the game, on an assist by Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The game remained tied for the rest of regulation. With 2 minutes and 2 second to go in regulation, Matt Read hooked Evgeny Kuznetsov, earning a late power play for the Caps. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize. So the game went to Overtime. At only 38 seconds into the Overtime, Jakub Voracek scored his second goal of the game and the Flyers won. On the goal, Kuznetsov who was covering Voracek, had knocked Holtby’s stick away from him and Voracek then shot the puck towards the net.
The game was also marked by bad officiating – to the point where it seemed the Caps were being called for ticky tacky offenses and the Flyers were getting away with much more. Many fans felt like Neuvirth should have gotten a delay of game penalty during the power play at the end of regulation.
There was more bad news than just the loss. Marcus Johansson left the game after just 12 minutes into the first period with an upper body injury. It is suspected that a Wayne Simmonds hit of him into the boards was probably the culprit. However, there is no concrete news on the nature of his injury or how long he will be out, except that he is to be reevaluated on Monday.
In addition, it was announced that Alex Ovechkin would not be attending the All Star game due to a lower body injury. He would also be forced to miss the Caps’ next game against the Florida Panthers on February 2, as pulling out of All Stars due to injury results in an automatic one game suspension. The team, including Coach Trotz, the training staff, and Ovechkin, felt Ovechkin would benefit more from rest and be fresher for the rest of the season and the post season.
Period 2 – 07:39 Burakovsky (6) – Assists by Schmidt (10)
Period 2 – 08:34 Backstrom (16) – Assists by Oshie (14), Alzner (12)
Period 3 – 04:51 Burakovsky (7) – Assists by Kuznetsov (34)
Capitals Goaltending Statistics
Braden Holtby – 28 Saves in 32 Chances. 25 Saves in 28 Chances at Even Strength
The Caps have 3 members of their team going to the All Star game in Nashville, Tennessee: center Nicklas Backstrom, goalie Braden Holtby, and center, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was named to replace Alex Ovechkin who bowed out due to a lower body injury that he’s been dealing with since November.
Meanwhile, many of the players not making All Stars, had vacation plans, generally to destinations with warm climates and beaches. Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, and Michael Latta went to the Bahamas, with Wilson posting a picture of the trio on the beach, sipping Pina Coladas. Stan Galiev went to Hollywood and Universal Studios with his wife. T.J. Oshie and his family went to a resort in Turks and Caicos, which is just southeast of the Bahamas.
Looking to the week ahead, the Caps remain home to play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday February 2 and the New York Islanders on February 4, with both games being played at 7:30 p.m., a half hour later than the normal 7:00 p.m. start time. Both games will be televised on NBCSN.
By Diane Doyle