On Thursday night, the Washington Capitals did a great job putting their late-season struggles behind them with a 2-0 victory in Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
It was an important win for the franchise as they erased any doubt from both fans and skeptics alike that they wouldn’t be ready for the playoffs. Saturday night the Capitals and Flyers will return to the Verizon Center ice for Game 2.
The Capitals came out in game one and looked like a team that was on a mission. They didn’t fold when there was pressure, and there was some pressure early on. The Capitals took three penalties in the first period, the first by John Carlson and the last two by Brooks Orpik but the Caps defense prevailed on the PK. Perhaps as a result of the three power plays, the Flyers took 11 total shots in the first frame but Caps goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all 11 of them.
The Caps finally found the back of the net late in the second period with a power play goal by John Carlson at the 16:21 mark. It was the Capitals third power play of the period where they converted, as they never had the man advantage in the first, and third time was the charm. Carlson got the puck from the point and fired it in.
In the third period, things continued to get physical between the two rivals. With just over 13 minutes left, Tom Wilson and Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves.
The physicality, defense, the penalty kill (stopping all four Flyer power plays) and great play by Holtby was huge, but the Caps were still looking for that insurance goal to seal the win. They got it at 16:36 with a goal by Jay Beagle.
The Flyers had trouble figuring out Holtby the whole night as he stopped all 19 shots for his third career playoff shutout. The mark moves the 26-year old netminder past Don Beaupre and Semyon Varlamov for second in franchise history in that category. Holtby has allowed no more than one goal in 14 of his 17 total playoff wins which includes each of his past 11 victories that dates back to Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Rangers.
The Flyers have had a rough week with the passing of team-founder and chairman Ed Snider on Monday from bladder cancer. He was 83. There was more bad news for Philly on Friday after team General Manager Ron Hextall announced that second-line center Sean Couturier would be out for two weeks with an upper body injury. His absence for the remainder of the round is tough for a Flyers team trying to avoid a 2-0 deficit before the series shifts to Philadelphia on Monday. Couturier left midway through the second period after getting checked into the boards by Alex Ovechkin. The Flyers haven’t won a postseason game since 2012.
For the Capitals they are looking to take early command in this series by going up two games to none. Puck drop from the phone booth is at 7 p.m. You can catch the game locally on CSN or nationally on CNBC (U.S.) or CBC (Canada).
By Michael Marzzacco
Postgame Notebook: Caps 2, Flyers 0 (Dump N’ Chase):
Tom Wilson on Wayne Simmonds: ‘I hope I didn’t wake him up” (DC Sports Bog):
When opponents catch on to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s tricks, he makes up new ones (The Washington Post):
The Great Wait: After 11 seasons Alex Ovechkin may finally win Cup (Sports Illustrated):
Capitals react to Couturier missing series (CSN):