Caps hold on in third against Flyers, win 3-2
The Capitals aren't in the basement anymore.
With a 1-1 score at the start of the third period, the Caps scored twice on the visiting Flyers and managed to hang on to it for the first time in three games, with the final score 3-2 in the home team's favor.
The win took the Caps from 15th in the East to 13th. Although it's not a huge leap, not being last anymore is just fine.
This game, a home game against a rivalry team after two come-from-ahead losses was a must-win game early in the season. The Flyers had been struggling similarly in the first weeks of the new season.
Spots that were problematic for the Caps started to look a lot better.
The Caps were shorthanded only three times. It was the third time this season that the Caps had been on the penalty kill less than five times.
When the Caps were short a man, it wasn't a problem, either. Neither of the two Flyers goals came when the Caps were short a man.
Braden Holtby also got a chance to redeem himself, allowing two goals on 31 shots, with one goal coming on a tap-in after ricocheting off of two pipes.
But the defense was better, too.
Everything just seemed to be a little better.
That could've just been a bi-product of playing another misfiring team, though. Pittsburgh on Sunday should be a good litmus test of progress for the Caps.
The top line changed tonight, with Alexander Ovechkin pairing with Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski.
Hopefully it's the last anyone will see of the Ovechkin-Jay Beagle-Joey Crabb line.
No disrespect to Beagle or Crabb, but they're not top-line guys.
The results were better. Ovechkin was taking more shots and generally looking more dangerous when he wasn't the one taking the puck into the offensive zone.
After the game, Wolski said that they tried to feed Ovechkin more on that line. That plan is a good one. You know, that guy who can score a lot but is kind of in a funk at the moment? Feed him the puck. It'll help him get back to his old scoring ways (provided that it's not on an empty net chance--Ovechkin is 0-for-2 on empty netters after one got blocked late tonight).
That line is going to be interesting to watch if Adam Oates keeps it together. Ribeiro can find a pass like no other.
The only noteworthy event of the first period was John Erskine's hit on Wayne Simmonds that led to Matt Hendricks getting swung on by Zac Rinaldo, whose hockey acumen is as sharp as a spoon.
It was an ugly penalty but Rinaldo made up for the hit by winning his fight that he instigated with Hendricks.
Both Hendricks and Rinaldo were tossed from the game for the brawl, which worked out best for the Flyers because Hendricks can face off fairly well. Having that one specialized skill makes him infinitely more useful than Rinaldo.
It wasn't as simple as one cancelling out the other, though. The fight left the Flyers short two forwards as Simmonds would not return. That hurt the Flyers. Winning fights does not win hockey games--not that Rinaldo would have won the game, because he's a bag of hammers, after all. But another skater means less fatigue which feasibly could have changed the game.
Erskine will probably sit for a few games off of the elbow. The Capitals didn't make him available to media after the game. They probably know some kind of suspension is coming.
Hopefully the Wayne Train is ok.
Mike Knuble was on the ice for 16:59 last night, bumping up his average after Simmonds and Rinaldo were forced out of the competition.
Up until last year he had been good for about 20 goals and it wouldn't surprise me to see him in double digits this year.
He didn't see much of the ice for the Caps last year. It was good to see him on the ice more tonight.
The goals tonight came from Nicklas Backstrom (1), Troy Brouwer (3) and Wolski (2).
That edges Brouwer closer to goal leader Joel Ward (4), he's not there yet.
Wardwatch survives another day.
You may rejoice appropriately.