Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Capitals passed their first test with flying colors, while the loss was costly for the Flyers in more ways than one.
If the Philadelphia Flyers have any hope of beating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first-round series, they will need to take advantage of the opportunities they are given. They didn’t in Game 1.
The Flyers had three first-period power plays and not only didn’t capitalize, but didn’t even get a shot on goal with the man advantages en route to a 2-0 Capitals victory. The Flyers were 0-for-4 on the power play, and while the Caps weren’t much better at 1-for-6, they got the lucky bounce they needed and it turned into the game winner.
Late in the second period the Capitals got the only goal they needed from defenseman John Carlson. Carlson’s shot from the point hit Flyers center Chris VandeVelde and beat Steve Mason.
Vezina Trophy-candidate Braden Holtby wasn’t busy for the Capitals but was sharp when he needed to be. He made 19 saves for his third career playoff shutout. Jay Beagle scored an insurance goal late in the third for Washington.
While the Flyers were in the close game throughout, what’s interesting is they didn’t have two of their top players on the ice late in the game when they were looking for an equalizer.
First, they lost center Sean Couturier to an injury. Couturier was hit by Alex Ovehckin and fell hard, shoulder first into the boards. He left the game and did not return. After the game, the Flyers announced Couturier has an A/C sprain to his left shoulder and is done for the series.
Then in the third, Wayne Simmonds took himself out of the game with a questionable personal decision. Capitals right winger Tom Wilson hit Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald and had drawn a boarding penalty. But Simmonds went after Wilson and drew him into a fight, and Simmonds got an additional roughing penalty.
So instead of a Flyers power play with seven minutes to go in the game, the penalties were offsetting and Simmonds, the Flyers leading goal scorer, was in the box during crunch time. All so he could “set the tone” for the rest of the series. You have to think the Flyers would have been better off with a 32-goal scorer on the ice.
Regardless, the Flyers are in a hole now and have to go on without this best shutdown forward. That’s not good news against the high-flying Capitals, who scored the second-most goals in the NHL during the regular season.
When pundits talk about the Capitals being a more balanced, playoff-ready team they’re talking about games like Thursday. They got goals from two unlikely sources, Holtby was great, and they won a game without their offensive stars having to carry the load. They passed their first test with flying colors.