|Semyon Varlamov was excellent in relief Tuesday. (Getty)|
The Capitals once again put themselves in a hole early by allowing the Flyers to score barely a minute into the contest. After Jeff Carter corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and took it into the Caps zone, John Carlson did his job and forced Carter to the outside. But Michal Neuvirth was caught way out of position on the play, and Carter wrapped around and buried the easy lay up for a 1-0 Flyer lead at the 1:31 mark. The Flyers continued to crank up the pressure, bombarding Neuvirth with shots as the frame wore on, and it took some serious luck for the Capitals and Neuvirth to keep the deficit at 1. The Caps were able to mount no offensive pressure on the Flyers' cage and Sergei Bobrovsky had to exert little effort to thwart the men from DC, save one good chance from Nick Backstrom, and the teams headed to their locker rooms with the Flyers up 1-0. In the second, the Flyers blitzed the Caps full tilt and dominated them in every facet of the game. Semyon Varlamov, who replaced Michal Neuvirth at the start of the frame after the latter aggravated a groin injury during the first period, was stellar early, making several ten-bell saves on the Flyers, including a jaw-dropping stop on Mike Richards on the doorstep. However, despite their best efforts, the Caps could not break through for a goal as they continued to mount offensive pressure as the period wore on. But the Flyers soon turned the tables again, pressuring the Caps back and back and pinning them in their own zone for extended periods. The inevitable finally happened when Claude Giroux banged home his own rebound at the 13:38 mark to put the Flyers up by 2 and take all of the wind out of Washington's sails. The rest of the period was insufferably boring as the Caps began to get sucked into the Flyers' strategy as they began to try and kill clock with puck possession, and the period mercifully ended with Philly only up by 2. In the third, the Caps came out strong for the first period in awhile, pressing Bobrovsky into his first real duty of the night. The young Russian had to make several great stops on the Caps, including excellent saves on Ovechkin and Jason Chimera. But the Caps were rewarded nearly 8 miutes into the period when Marcus Johansson collected an errant clearing pass and cut in on Bobrovsky, only to hit the post. But former Flyer Mike Knuble potted the loose puck to cut the disadvantage to 1. Just 40 seonds later, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Nick Backstrom down low and equalized with a wrist shot from in tight. The goal was reviewed after strong protests from Flyer coach Peter Laviolette to see if Ovechkin punched it in, but the goal stood. The Flyers then seized the momentum once more, and Varlamov had to be great again to preserve the tie throughout the dying moments of the frame. Nevertheless, the Caps kept the score knotted through 60, earning them a big point. In overtime, the Caps had one chance before the Flyers attacked in transition, with Andrej Meszaros taking a drop pass from Matt Carle and ripping it past the screened Varlmov to send the Flyer faithful home happy. Varlamov finished with 20 saves.
I have to wonder what BB was thinking when he gave Michal Neuvirth the start tonight after he had to leave the morning skate early to ice his wonky groin. It was clearly affecting Michal through the first period and his lack of lateral movement caused by the injury cost the Caps their first goal against. Look for Varly to get the majority of starts in the near future after his excellent performance tonight.
This was a big point. Even though the Caps did not win, they played very well in the third period, taking it to the class of the East and not backing down even when most (especially me) thought they were going to roll over and die. This was a good momentum game and if they play like they did in the third for the majority of their games, they are going to win a bunch of games in a row.
Nick Backstrom now has not scored in 21 consecutive games (cue Jeopardy! theme song). He is not playing well at all and his assist was a product of luck more than anything else. He also only won 5 faceoffs. If the Caps think they need to get 8 going, they also really need to get 19 going just as badly, as he is the best two-way player the Caps have and is just as instrumental to their success.
The Caps will travel to Long Island tonight before practicing tomorrow and then taking on the Islanders on Thursday in a must-win game. Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 P.M.