(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
But after a television timeout, Jeff Schultz laid into a Flyers forward, and moments later, Tyler Sloan did the same. After that, what had been a subpar defensive performance turned into a flurry of offensive activity, and the Caps rallied from two goals down to overcome and defeat the hated Flyers, 4-2, before a capacity crowd at the Verizon Center Tuesday night.
Jose Theodore sparkled in net as well. He stopped 41-of-43 shots he faced, and even stopped a penalty shot.
He allowed just two power play goals during the second period of the game, when the Flyers were owning the Caps, physically and offensively.
Philly was able to keep the puck in the Caps zone seemingly at will for most of the period, often looking like they were running a power play, though the teams were at even strength.
Even a two-man advantage for 1:42 couldn't get the Caps to shake a leg.
But things changed during that TV timeout. Whether coach Bruce Boudreau said something to his troops, or the players finally realized on their own that if they put out physically, things would finally open up offensively—as it did—is unknown.
But what is known is that as soon as the Caps stood up to their personal bully, they almost automatically found more room to operate. And room to operate meant scoring goals.
"We got a little bit angry," Nicklas Backstrom said. "It was good for us."
Alex Ovechkin started the comeback with just under four minutes to play, snapping a shot past Flyers goalie Ray Emery (33 saves on 36 shots). Two minutes later, it was his running mate, Backstrom, that one-timed a shot past Emery from the top of the circle on a power play, breaking the Capitals
' 0-for-14 skid with the man-advantage.
Alexander Semin, who returned from his mysterious illness/injury of the past two games, tallied third with a wicked wrist shot from the left wing circle that might have deflected off a shin pad on the way. And Ovechkin capped things with an empty-netter, the first of the season for Washington.
Ovechkin now has 11 goals in 11 games, and Backstrom assisted on all three goals he did not score.
But the first star belonged to Theodore, who is playing some really inspired goaltending right now. On several occasions he was the only resistance to the Flyers onslaught of shots, and he turned back every even-strength offering, including 20 saves in the closing period.
He was remarkably calm, putting his skate against the post to close the door on at least three occasions. And he's perfecting that little snap-catch on the rebounds that pop up right in front of him.
"Theo kept us in the game," said Boudreau.
So the Caps got scoring from their top line, strong goaltending and even some much-needed physical play when they really needed it. They gave up 43 shots, and on most nights that's a cause for alarm, but with the way the Flyers were buzzing, it's a testament to Theodore that things did not get out of hand.
The Caps historically don't match up well with the Flyers, and it's because of the physical play. Hopefully when they watch the tape of this one, they'll notice the timing of when the ice opened up for them late in the second period.
Because that's when they started to give as good as they were getting.