The Caps were in Philadelphia Wednesday in search of a third straight win. Since they were the only team in the Southeast bracket in action, it was a chance to gain ground on the rest of the division. Unfortunately, the Flyers wrecked those hopes in the first 30 seconds of the game and never looked back, cruising to a 4-1 victory.
Prior to tonight, the Flyers had been unhappy with the way they had been starting games. They came into the night having surrendered the most first-period goals in the league. Sadly for the Caps, the home team worked off a different script in this contest.
Claude Giroux was left unguarded in front of Braden Hotlby, where he potted his 7th goal of the year only 23 seconds into the game. Hard work around the goal by Scott Hartnell set the play in motion. That and a friendly bounce left Giroux with an easy open-netter.
The Flyers productive power play would strike next less than four minutes later. This time Hartnell connected with Wayne Simmonds on the doorstep, and Simmonds slid a backhand past Holtby on the glove side.
Washington did not show much, if any, of the same jump they had the night before at Verizon Center against Carolina.
Down 2-0 after 20 minutes, the second period was no better for the Caps and actually might have been worse. They were credited with only three shots on goal in the middle period, which was entirely too easy for Ilya Bryzgalov in the Flyers net.
Simon Gagne put himself on the scoreboard in period two. Gagne, who was acquired from the L.A. Kings this week, converted a short-range shot into a relatively wide-open cage with the Flyers on their second power play of the game.
The lead ballooned to four when Max Talbot walked right down the middle of the Caps defensive zone and blasted a slapshot over the catching-glove shoulder of Holtby at 14:55 of the second period.
Head Coach Adam Oates would lift Braden from the game at that point and the young man he put in goal turned out to be the best story of the night for the Caps.
Philipp Grubauer made his NHL debut and several sparkling saves in relief of Holtby. With Michal Neuvirth feeling ill back home in D.C., Grubauer joined the club in Philly today and made the most of his opportunity.
The 21-year old German stopped all 14 shots he would face, with one very sharp-looking three-save sequence that foiled the Flyers from close range.
Thankfully, the Caps were able to spoil the shutout bid of Bryzgalov. Joel Ward was battling around the goal crease when the rebound of a Tom Poti point-shot bounced off the Flyer goalie. Ward managed to get his stick on the rolling puck and tucked it into the cage at 17:51 of the third.
There was one more unsettling incident to occur before the final horn and it came with just 25 seconds left. Flyers winger Harry Zolnierczyk was whistled for a five-minute major penalty for kneeing Mathieu Perreault in open ice. The two skaters collided heavily and Perreault was left down on the ice with his right leg in distress.
The Caps now have two days to get ready for the Winnipeg Jets. That match-up comes Saturday from MTS Centre at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Comcast SportsNet.