Retro Recap: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers – December 5, 2009: Saint Nicholas Day and Sucker Punches in Philadelphia

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

With the Washington Capitals recently playing the Anaheim Ducks on Saint Nicholas Day 2019 in a game marked with physical altercations, NoVa Caps takes look back on a game 10 years ago on the day before, against the Philadelphia Flyers on December 5, 2009.


Heading into the game, the Caps held a record of 17-5-6 and were on a four-game winning streak when they traveled to play the Flyers at Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Center, despite the fact they were missing superstar left wing Alex Ovechkin, who was serving the final game of a two game suspension, right wing Mike Knuble (recovering from a broken finger), and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (a concussion). Defenseman Tom Poti returned to the lineup after missing six games with a chest injury.

The Flyers, meanwhile, were 13-11-1 and had lost seven of their previous 10 games, including their previous three in a row. Their recent poor performance prompted team management to fire Head Coach John Stevens and replace him with Peter Laviolette.

First Period

The game started off well for the Capitals, as forward Tomas Fleischmann scored nearly a minute into the contest for his ninth goal of the season. Linemates Brendan Morrison and Eric Fehr were credited with assists on the play.

The Flyers tied it up at the 12:06 mark on a goal from Mika Pyorala, with assists from Oscars Bartulis and Daniel Carcillo. The game turned ugly about two and a half minutes later at 14:33. Capitals forward Matt Bradley finished a check on Carcillo into the sideboards. Carcillo, however, responded excessively to what had been a clean hit, and delivered a cross-check to Bradley’s back. Before Bradley could engage, Carcillo dropped his gloves, cocked his fist and punched Bradley in the jaw, knocking him down on the ice and finishing Bradley for the night.

Fleischmann and defenseman Mike Green would score late in the period to give the visiting Capitals a 4-1 advantage over the Flyers. The first frame would end with the Capitals up on the scoreboard and both teams’ blood pumping after an eventful first.

Second Period

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Capitals’ would have a power play spill over into the second period, with Brooks Laich adding another power play marker 36 seconds into the middle frame on assists from Green and Nicklas Backstrom, giving the Caps a 4-1 lead.

The Caps continued to pour on the goals even after the Carcillo major penalty expired, with then-Captain Chris Clark (11:14), Backstrom (12:02), and Green (15:23) each adding goals to give the Caps the steering wheel over their hosts from the City of Brotherly Love.  The score after 40 minutes was a blistering 7-1, with Clark’s goal coming just after the visitors killed off a penalty.

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Third Period

The third frame would see the home team score their second goal of the game, when Scott Hartnell scored just over six minutes into the period. After Hartnell took a penalty at the 10:41 mark of the period, Capitals center David Steckel scored less than 40 seconds into the subsequent man-advantage, getting assists from Green and Backstrom.

The final score for the game was a resounding 8-2 in favor of Washington. Six different players scored for the Capitals, with Fleischmann and Green both scoring twice. Backstrom had a five-point night, with one goal and four assists and was voted First Star of the Game.  In addition to his two goals, Green added two assists, as did Fehr and Alexander Semin.  The Caps went 4-for-6 on the power play.

Comments After the Game:

Bradley spoke after the game saying, “I haven’t had a chance to see it, but I know I hadn’t dropped my gloves yet. Maybe it’s my fault for not expecting that. I was willing to fight him and didn’t get going. Obviously I had my bell rung and was a little woozy.”

Carcillo also spoke to reporters after the game stating, “I saw him drop his gloves so I started punching. I’m not happy about it. …Uh, you know, they called it the way they called it. Yeah, you know he dropped his gloves and I thought we were in a fight. …He kind of came at me the shift before and he was talking to me before so I thought we were going to fight. I don’t know why he waited so long to drop his gloves. Once you see that you’re in a fight, you start punching.

In response to a question on whether he expected to be suspended, Carcillo said, “Yeah, I don’t know. Probably. I don’t know what they’re thinking. I thought I was in a fight. I’ve never done anything dirty. I’ve never punched guys when they’re on the ground. I’m not a dirty fighter.”

The Aftermath

The NHL suspended Carcillo four games for the incident, while Bradley missed the next two games, returning on December 11, with the Caps extending their winning streak for one more game. The Capitals won the President’s Trophy at season’s end but were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were the sixth seed but advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals (after beating Montreal), where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

Related Reading
WaPo: Game Recap
Box Score from
Photos of Game from

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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1 Response to Retro Recap: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers – December 5, 2009: Saint Nicholas Day and Sucker Punches in Philadelphia

  1. Day One Caps Fan says:

    It was an egregious cheapo by Dan Carcillo … But ALL Caps-Flyers games should be like this one!

    Thanks for the recap D – D!

    Gosh if I could find a film of the 21 Dec 1980 Caps-Flyers slugfest ….

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