Presented by Penn Quarter Sports Tavern
PHILADELPHIA -- I often hear an expression that tends to ring true from time to time, especially in pro sports. It says you make your own breaks. The Caps worked very hard to put away the Flyers 5-2 on enemy ice, and they did so by virtue of their skill level, their commitment to one another, and a few kind bounces in the third period. Lady luck tends to smile on teams during a win streak and she helped Washington earn a victory tonight, its sixth in a row to begin this new year.
Wells Fargo Center was buzzing well before the drop of the puck. The fans were counting on this one being a thriller. Many people believe these two clubs will be seeing a lot of each other this season, post-season included. The Flyers brought a 4-0-1 mark to the party, their only loss an OT setback here to Los Angeles last week. The Caps put their 5-0 mark on the line, and for the first 10 minutes of the game did a solid job of not allowing Philly to blast out of the gates as can be their custom.
Even though there were a bunch of early penalties and sufficient power-play time, the game was scoreless until the 14-minute mark. Then, with the sides skating 4-on-4, Claude Giroux managed to get behind the Capitals defense for a breakaway. The young center is a stick-handling whiz, and he made a sweet move to his forehand that left Tomas Vokoun grasping at air. Giroux has five goals this year and all of them have come in the first 20 minutes.
Just when it looked like the Caps would be trailing after one, the bounces started to go their way. Mathieu Perreault took an errant clearing pass from Scott Hartnell and snapped a shot to the cage that caromed off defender Braydon Coburn and past big netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. It would not be the only bouncing biscuit to torment the Flyers new goalie.
The Caps grabbed a late first-period lead when a Nick Backstrom stuff attempt bounced off Bryzgalov and right to an un-guarded Alex Ovechkin on the doorstep. The captain made no mistake from close range and the visitors had big smiles on their faces marching off to the dressing room.
Both goalies were tough to beat in the second period, but it was Vokoun who seemed to be gaining in strength again as the game went along. His confidence level is soaring at the moment and for good reason; hes stopping everything he sees, and he knows that his teammates can deliver him leads to protect.
At the morning skate I made sure to remind Roman Hamrlik that he scored his 1st NHL goal 19 years ago today, playing for Tampa Bay against Edmonton. He remembered the goal very well. What he did not know was that he has scored more vs. Philly than any team in his NHL career.
Armed with that knowledge, it was only a matter of time before he cashed in tonight (wink, wink). A point drive from Hamrlik took a ridiculous right-hand turn when it deflected off of Andreas Lilja and left Bryzgalov helpless. You could sense the Russian was seething behind his mask at his bad luck and the Caps good fortune.
Less than two minutes later, with Washington on the power play, it would happen again . Ovechkin rotated perfectly into the high-slot for a one-timer set up by Backstrom. A split-second after OV released the shot, the puck appeared to glance off defender Max Talbot and the change of pace wobbled past a partially-screened Bryzgalov. Dennis Wideman picked up an assist on the play, and now carries a six-game point-scoring streak --one off his career high set with Boston in 2009.
The 4-1 lead would increase by one 54 seconds later. Jeff Schultz kept his slapshot low, hugging the ice and in direct line with Joel Ward camped out in front of the Flyer net. Ward fended off the man covering him and neatly steered the Schultz blast on his backhand past Bryzgalov.
Those three goals in a 2:25 span took the starch out of the Flyer faithful and sent them off unfaithfully to the parking lot.
The entire team gave an inspired effort tonight, with an especially gutsy performance turned in by Brooks Laich, who was clipped in the face with a high-stick on two different occasions. His blood-stained jersey was a badge of honor by games end.
Vokoun would finish the night with 40 saves, allowing a Sean Couturier goal with only 15 seconds remaining. He is on an amazing save-percentage tear in his last four games, and will look for that to continue against a powerful Detroit Red Wings squad Saturday at Verizon Center.