PHILADELPHIA | A five-game home stand that began at the end of February and continued into March was to be crucial to the Washington Capitals’ playoff chase. They managed to pick up just five points, and that was thanks to a healthy helping of third-period magic.
This five-game road stretch was to be just as important. The key? Don’t implode. The final note was a tough shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but coming out of all this with five points should be seen as a major victory for the Caps.
“Not bad. I think we got some points in some real tough buildings,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “I think a couple of our games we didn’t show up as much as we would have liked to, especially for the time of the season, but five points in five games is all right right now.”
More than all right, especially considering the Caps had to dig out of a major hole at the New York Islanders and lost at the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.
Getting one point Thursday in Philadelphia drew mixed reactions.
“You always want more, and you need more, because we’re in a battle, but the guys played hard,” coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s tough in this league to win. You come in here and to win in here, it’s a tough building.”
Tough buildings, all around. But so is Verizon Center, where the Caps play five of their final eight games (vs. Jets, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers).
Players were willing to assess the road trip Thursday night in the visiting locker room at Wells Fargo Center, but they also wanted to spin things forward to Friday night’s game vs. Winnipeg.
“It was a couple big games and a couple big victories for sure,” right wing Joel Ward said. “I think we’ve got to now go back home and establish our home building again and just kind of regroup.”
Alex Ovechkin said it’s probably the biggest game of the season. With the Panthers playing the Edmonton Oilers and the Sabres in action at the New York Rangers, two more points are just about essential. Again.
“We got a big game [Friday] against Winnipeg who we feel is going to be maybe a make or break game in our season and we’re excited about tomorrow night’s game already,” Brouwer said.