PHILADELPHIA – In a season like this, it’s the little things that will get teams into the post-season, and little things that will keep them out.
Twenty-four hours after coming back from a two-goal deficit in a rousing shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Capitals saw the same thing happen to them in Philadelphia.
After third-period power play goals by Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin gave the Caps a two-goal lead, the Flyers answered with a power-play goal by Claude Giroux, a game-tying goal by Kimmo Timonen with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation and an overtime goal by Ruslan Fedotenko 1:34 into overtime, handing the Caps a 5-4 loss and putting a dent in their playoff hopes.
“It’s a matter of doing the right things at the right time,” Caps defenseman Mike Green said. “That penalty killed us. We talked about it all year. It can’t happen. Whether it was a bad call or whatever is not the point. It can’t happen at that time.”
Green was referring to a holding penalty Troy Brouwer took on Giroux with 7:28 remaining in regulation and the Caps holding a 4-2 lead. Sixteen seconds later Giroux scored to make it 4-3.
“I just tried to get a little body positioning on him,” Brouwer said. “I thought [Giroux] leaned into me a little bit but I looked at the replay, my stick was in his stomach. They’re going to call that every day. …It’s just careless on my part.”
Giroux’s goal gave the Flyers life, but it was Timonen’s slapper from the point with 9.5 seconds left in regulation that stung the most. In fact, it seemed eerily identical to the game-tying goal Green scored the night before in Buffalo with 40 seconds left.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said he never saw Timonen’s rising shot, which eluded his catching glove.
“I was tangled up from the save before in front,” he said. “I tried to get my bearings straight, saw the guy on the right side passed it and, you know, one-timed it right through Nicky's legs and then through a couple other guys. I didn't see that at all."
Just before Timonen’s goal the Capitals were called for icing. Capitals coach Adam Oates said the icing should have been waved off because Timonen could have played the puck before it crossed the goal line.
“It was iffy,” Oates said. “I thought Timonen could have played it.”
The Caps salvaged a point with the overtime loss, but instead of forging a virtual three-way tie with the Islanders and Rangers for eighth place and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference the Caps find themselves in a 10th-place tie with the Carolina Hurricanes with a 16-17-2 record and 34 points, one behind the Isles and Rangers and four behind the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.
“It hurts,” Brouwer said. “We’re treating it like we gave away two points. I know we got one out of this but we had them in a good position to win outright, get two points and move up in the standings. [The Flyers] getting two points and us only getting one that’s a complete – it just shouldn’t happen.”
Perhaps most infuriating in the loss is the fact the Caps worked so hard to take the lead, roaring back from a 2-1 deficit. After Green tied the score with the only goal in the second period, a monster hit by Steve Oleksy on Giroux turned the game in the Caps’ favor.
Flyers winger Jake Voracek jumped Oleksy for his first fight ever and was slapped with a minor for instigation and another of instigating while wearing a visor. The Caps took advantage with a pair of power-play goals and looked like they’d skate away with four points in the weekend doubleheader.
“We kind of got a little lackadaisical there at the end, sat back on our heels and they were coming full throttle,” Green said. “You can’t play like that. You have to push and make sure you take it to them.”
The Caps didn’t but still salvaged three out of a possible four points against the Sabres and Flyers. They conclude their three-game road trip in Carolina on Tuesday night.
“If you win these games you deserve to be in the playoffs,” Holtby said. “We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”