Welcome back to the Morning After, your home for Washington Capitals game analysis in this shortened season.
GAME 19: FLYERS 4, CAPITALS 1 (7-11-1, 15 points, 5th in Southeast, 14th in East)
PHILADELPHIA | “Well, tonight sucked.” That was the tweet from the Monumental Network’s Twitter account late Wednesday night. Not a good night by the Caps, or the Washington Wizards, for that matter.
For the Caps, it was just about over in 23 seconds.
A weak first shift by the first line of Jason Chimera, Mike Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin and the first pairing of Mike Green and Karl Alzner spelled almost immediate doom. When Green left his side of the net, Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux was wide-open to pounce on the loose puck and beat Holtby.
It was the first time in nine games the Caps gave up the first goal.
Coach Adam Oates called it a “terrible start.” But that’s only because Ribeiro took an early hooking penalty and the Caps were behind 2-0 just 4:04 in after Wayne Simmonds scored on the Flyers power play.
“I think we had very bad start,” Ovechkin said. “They score right away, then we take a penalty. I think it’s kind of hard to bounce back after 2-0 after like three minutes or four minutes at the start of the game.”
Playing down two goals, the Caps chased the rest of the way and just couldn’t keep up with the Flyers.
“First shift and then down two quick, and playing against a team that needs it as bad as us, and we had no answer for them,” Oates said.
The Caps’ poor effort Wednesday night in Philadelphia was disheartening in part because of how well they played 24 hours earlier in a blowout of the Carolina Hurricanes.
“You know what? I talked to the guys,” Oates said. “As I said, Carolina had a lot of injuries on the blue line, and it helped us. We still played a good game [against Carolina], but it was disappointing to come out the way we did tonight. I thought we’d have more, and, obviously, getting behind early, that fast, was difficult.”
There was no kind of carry-over of momentum built up from drubbing essentially the Charlotte Checkers. The Caps looked like an entirely different team, and that’s not a good thing.
Center Nicklas Backstrom said he was “a little bit surprised” at how little he and his teammates had in the tank in Philadelphia.
“I think especially the way we played [Tuesday night], we should have come out a little harder,” Backstrom said. “We knew they were going to come out hard because they were resting yesterday; it was bad of us.”
Taking a few penalties looked bad on Ribeiro, who was jawing with officials from the second shift of the game on. The 33-year-old has something of a reputation for complaining about calls or a lack thereof, and that caught up to him again Wednesday.
Ribeiro got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct early in the third period when he wondered aloud to one of the officials about a missed call. It didn’t take much after that for him to earn a 10-minute misconduct, too.
It was the second time this season Ribeiro was given two and 10 for mouthing off at officials.
The slow start hurt the Caps and so did a general malaise that seemed to envelope their play. But they were playing uphill the whole way, given that the Wells Fargo Center crowd and the Flyers were energized by the return of Simon Gagne.
The Flyers re-acquired the winger in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, and Gagne managed to score in his homecoming.
“Obviously a good player like that, he played here for awhile, he’s loved by everybody,” Flyers forward Max Talbot said. “And to come back here and score a goal in his first game was huge for us.”
It was Gagne’s first goal since Nov. 17, 2011. By the time he scored it, the Caps were just about done.
Fun fact: Oates and Gagne share plenty of history. Gagne scored his first two career NHL goals against Oates and the Caps on Oct. 12, 1999 and played 19 games as a teammate of the Caps coach’s on the Flyers in 2001-02.
Wednesday marked the first time goaltender Braden Holtby was yanked from an NHL game. But there really wasn’t much he could do on the first three goals, which were products of defensive breakdowns and some tough bounces.
Holtby said he should have stopped Talbot’s shot from just inside the blue line that became goal No. 4 and prompted the hook.
“It’s four goals. He’s played great for us,” Oates said. “Plus the fourth goal, it looked like he should have had it, and just like everybody, he’s going to take his lumps, too.”
Oates said Holtby will have to bounce back for Saturday’s game at the Winnipeg Jets. In the aftermath of just his third loss in eight straight starts, the 23-year-old was ready to start thinking ahead.
“Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted,” Holtby said. “That fourth goal is mine to have, as simple as that. But we’ve got to put it behind us and move forward.”