The Washington capitals are skating a very fine line. For the sixth time in seven games, they allowed the first goal, and for the second straight contest, they allowed the first goal in the first two minutes of the opening period.
The Flyers, playing in just their second home game in 28 days, looked energized to be playing at home. They beat the Capitals for the second time this season in overtime, 3-2.
With the success of winning six of their last nine on the road, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette booked a block of hotel rooms to keep his players in a winning routine.
Instead of heading home to their families, the players went to the hotel, ate, slept and relaxed just as if they were playing away from Philadelphia.
“Maybe it's just to keep that road mentality, to keep guys away from home and the 'honey do list' that might be growing, getting longer. Especially against a team like Washington I really thought it was important," said Laviolette concerning his decision to keep the players from heading home.
The idea apparently worked as the Flyers won. Coupled with Vancouver’s OT loss to Colorado, the team is now tied with the Canucks in the race for the President’s Trophy with 65 points.
The Flyers had their pre-game meal at the hotel to cover last minute game notes and scouting reports, a scouting report that obviously read, "jump on Washington early and often."
The Flyers and Jeff Carter did just that. Carter took advantage of the Caps' Matt Hendricks' failed attempt to keep a loose puck in Washington’s offensive zone.
Carter picked up the loose puck at the half boards and skated down the ice, beating Caps' defenseman John Carlson around the cage and stuffing a wrap-around shot through the legs of the Capitals starting goalie, Michael Neuvirth.
Neuvirth appeared lethargic in trying to stop Carter on the wrap around. For the 29th time this season, the Capitals had surrendered the first goal.
Neuvirth left the game after the first period with what Bruce Boudreau classified as a lower body injury. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Neuvirth was icing down his left groin area and hip following the Tuesday morning skate.
Semyon Varlamov would relieve the injured Neuvirth to start the second period and would make 21 saves in the final two periods and overtime.
The Flyers would outshoot the Caps 8-6 in the first period and 30-25 for the game as rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves in notching his 18th win this season.
The Flyers would score their second goal when Claude Giroux knocked in his own rebound with 6:22 remaining in the second period. Jeff King, working behind the Capitals, net fed a streaking Giroux and after the initial Varlamov save, Giroux quickly knocked in the rebound.
For the second consecutive game, the Capitals would head to the third period scoreless and trailing and would manage to score two goals in less than 45 seconds.
The Capitals scored two goals 45 seconds apart on Sunday in beating the Ottawa Senators, and on Tuesday night scored two goals in 40 seconds to tie the Flyers.
Sloppy play by the Flyers in front of their own net led to former Flyer Mike Knuble's 11th goal of the season. Forty seconds later Alex Ovechkin, on a pass from Nick Backstrom, tied the game in front of the net at two goals apiece.
Ovechkin's goal was his 16th of the season and only his ninth since November 3. The goal was reviewed because it appeared Ovechkin may have dropped the puck forward into the net after catching the pass from Backstrom.
The Capitals never really pressured the Flyers for the rest of the third period. Washington seemed content working towards earning at least one point.
The overtime winner, like the first Flyers first goal of the evening, did not take long to score and the lack of overtime defense seemed to indicate the Capitals were satisfied with one point.
The Flyers' Matt Carle collected a loose puck at the Caps blue-line a minute into the overtime and skated unmolested and unchecked deep into the right faceoff circle in the Flyers offensive zone.
Carle skated past Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner and Jason Chimera, who all seemed content to just wave their stick at Carle as he blew by them.
Once there and with all five Capitals facing him, Carle hit Andrej Meszaros in the slot who skated in another 10 feet, also unchecked, and fired a wrister just below the glove of Varlamov to win the game at 1:07 of the extra session.
The loss was Washington's seventh overtime loss this season and fifth in a row.
This was yet another ugly and inconsistent performance by the Capitals as the loss dropped them to second in the Southeast division. The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.
Both Capitals goals were scored while Washington was working the front of the net against the Flyer defense.
In a frustrated tone Caps captain Alex Ovechkin said, "All guys in this room understand if we work hard and if we use our skill nobody can stop us. Right now you can see first two periods. . . . We have probably four shots on net, six shots on net".
Ovechkin continued, “That’s not our game. We have to go to the net, find the rebound, crash the net, make some hits and be angry."
The Capitals cannot seem to shake the slow starts or the fact that they cannot play a 60 minute game .
Boudreau's is at a loss for any explanation but offered this comment, “You’d like to think it's going to start a little earlier, but what are you going to do?" he said.
Boudreau continued, "It's frustrating for the players, it's frustrating for the coaches, it's frustrating for everybody".
It is also frustrating for the fans to watch.
I am not sure as to what is more agitating—the fact that they only needed 40 seconds to earn a point after being outplayed by one of the best teams in hockey or that every player and the head coach knows what the problems are but cannot correct them?
One has to wonder how much longer this will be continued, as the capitals sit just five points from an eighth seed in the eastern Conference.