The Washington Capitals turned a tight, tense game with their arch-rival Philadelphia Flyers into a resounding victory, scoring three times in the final two periods to secure a 5-3 victory before a raucous, sellout crowd at the Verizon Center.
Brooks Laich scored twice, breaking a considerable drought, and captain Alex Ovechkin netted a penalty shot, his first successful such play, after starting his career 0-for-5.
It was Ovechkin's 30th goal of the season, the Caps' fifth and last goal of the game, and triggered the promotion for giveaway wings from a local establishment.
"We just want to give fans free chicken wings and give them free food, you know?" Ovechkin said wryly in the locker room after the game.
Free food aside, it was a spirited contest. And though no fights erupted like the last couple of matches, there was plenty of good checking from both sides.
The win was the Capitals' third in a row and sixth in seven games. The offense has been on a tear during that stretch, scoring four or more goals in seven straight contests. For the season, the Caps average 3.71 goals per game, far outpacing second-place Chicago.
Tonight's output was no less stellar.
"Eventually it's going to stop," coach Bruce Boudreau said of the recent string of high scoring. "We're not going to score five goals a game. But it's nice while it's going on."
The one player that had not been so involved in the offense of late was Laich.
The coach pulled Laich aside after their morning skate-around, and the two had a serious film session, going over each of the gritty winger's shifts the past few games.
Boudreau stressed to Laich that he needed to play with more "sandpaper", insinuating himself into the play more.
"It kinda looked uninspired to me, the way I was playing," Laich said from his locker stall. "[Boudreau] said, 'get back to being determined, skating, using your assets,going to the net and good things will happen.'"
Both of Laich's goals came from point-blank range tonight, his first on a rebound of a Tomas Fleischmann shot in the crease, and the second a breakaway backhander on a lazy breakout pass during a Flyers' power play.
“He is a very intense young man,” says Boudreau of Laich. “Sometimes he likes to do too much. We just looked over his video—his shifts, his goals—we saw if there was anything we could find that he was doing different. We had a good talk and I was so happy when he scored. You are never going to find a guy that cares more than Brooks Laich.”
Mike Knuble had the Caps' first goal of the evening, tying the score midway through the first period, against his former teammates. Alexander Semin added his 20th goal of the season—a power-play marker—and an assist.
Washington killed three of the five power plays Philadelphia was awarded.
The Caps had just 22 shots on goals against Ray Emery, making his first start since Dec. 5, when the Caps torched him for five goals on just 17 shots in an 8-2 win.
The win signals the end of the regular season series with Philly, with the Caps owning their former Patrick division rivals, 3-0-1 for the season. Washington is now 30-12-6, and with 66 points have retaken the lead in the Eastern Conference.
Washington hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night at 7:05 pm.