PHILADELPHIA -- With 25 seconds remaining in the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, forward Mathieu Perreault tried to weave his way through the neutral zone when – bam! – he was crushed by Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk.
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he thought Zolnierczyk left his feet on the play.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner wondered why a player would hunt down an opponent that late in a lopsided game.
“That’s what we said in that pile there,” Alzner said of the scrum that ensued after the hit, which resulted in a kneeing major and game misconduct for Zolnierczyk.
“There’s only a minute left,” Alzner said. “What’s the point of doing that? Some players like that don’t really think about it that way. They just think about what they’re supposed to be doing on the ice. An older guy probably wouldn’t have done something like that.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates?
He said Perreault got what he deserved, much like the rest of his team.
“You know what? I don’t think it’s dirty at all,” Oates said after the Capitals’ worst performance since their 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Feb. 7.
“I think it’s a product of our whole game, quite honestly. There’s 30 seconds left, the game’s over and Matty thought he could stickhandle through the team. It’s not what we do.”
Oates said Perreault was “fine” after the hit and had no ill words for Zolnierczyk or the Flyers, who climbed back into playoff position with a 10-11-1 mark for 21 points.
“The atmosphere clearly dropped in the game,” Oates said. “It was over. And he felt he could dangle through a team. You can’t. It’ll never work that way.”
The Caps played like a tired team from the drop of the puck. Scott Hartnell outmuscled Mike Green and Karl Alzner on the first shift of the game, feeding Claude Giroux for his seventh goal of the season.
And it pretty much went downhill after that. A Mike Ribeiro hooking call – which he vehemently argued against – resulted in a power-play goal by Wayne Simmonds at the 4:04 mark. And a boarding penalty to Joel Ward resulted in Simon Gagne’s first goal as a Flyer since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals.
When Max Talbot gave the Flyers a 4-0 lead with 4:05 remaining in the second period, ripping a shot off Braden Holtby’s right arm and into the net, Oates pulled Holtby and replaced him with Philipp Grubauer.
“The fourth goal looked like he should have had it,” Oates said, adding, “That was the team tonight. It wasn’t Holts. … He’s gotta bounce back for Winnipeg.”
Perhaps the only bright spot for the Capitals was Grubauer, who stopped all 14 shots he faced.
“He was unbelievable,” Alzner said. “He’s very quick, fast, explosive. That’s good promise right there.”
Aside from that, the Caps had little to like about the loss. Afterward, several Caps said they did not want to dwell on Wednesday night’s defeat, their third in eight games.
“It’s definitely disappointing, especially with the win we came off of,” Ward said. “We have to move on, put that one past us and get ready for the next game.”
Oates seemed concerned about the lack of push-back from his team but reserved judgment on the reasons.
“We had no answer for them,” Oates said. “It’s our first bad game in a while and I think it was all of us. I think we looked a little tired. We’ll chalk it up to that. We looked like, to a man, like we didn’t have any jump.”