The Washington Capitals didn’t see a two-goal deficit in their first nine games, but they have in each of the past two. It has been just the right situation for them to flourish.
Nicklas Backstrom shrugged off a recent slump with a four-point night, and Jose Theodore counted a third-period stop on a penalty shot among his 41 saves in a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
“The first two periods [we] were down 2-0 and didn’t play good at all,” Backstrom said. “After [not scoring] on the five-on-three, we got a little angry and a little pissed off. It was good for us and good for our line especially.”
Alexander Semin had missed the previous two games, but he was reunited with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, and the trio combined for all four goals. Semin scored the winner 5:24 into the final period to help the Caps to their fifth straight win. Semin’s shot grazed Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen en route to the net, and it fooled Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery.
Theodore was the hero in the final period, turning aside each furious Flyers rally and 20 shots. Darroll Powe earned a penalty shot less than 90 seconds after Semin’s goal, but Theodore stopped his attempt to go five-hole.
“I felt pretty good,” Theodore said. “I’ve felt the same way pretty much since the first game. … Tonight the guys played really well clearing the puck, and I was able to really challenge [shooters], which is a big part of my game.
“I said during training camp that this is the best I’ve felt since the lockout, and sooner or later people are going to realize that I wasn’t just saying that for fun.”
Backstrom had just one point in his previous six games and was torched in the faceoff circle Saturday night against the New York Islanders. He responded in a big way against the Flyers, including a how-did-he-do-that play that led to the team’s first goal.
Jeff Schultz’s dump into the offensive zone was deflected into the air, but Backstrom corralled the puck by bouncing it twice on his stick - think Tiger Woods “juggling” a golf ball in that commercial - and then let it fall to the ice before sending a perfect pass to Ovechkin as he cut toward the net.
Ovechkin put it past Emery for his 10th of the season at 16:08. It was only Backstrom’s second assist since registering eight in the first three games of the season.
“Nick’s a pretty good player, and you know you’re not going to keep a pretty good player down,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He had gone [three] games without a point, and he got four tonight. That’s what good players do.”
Added Backstrom: “I don’t practice [juggling the puck] that much to be honest, but it happens sometimes and when you get the chance you just have to do it.”
After a scoreless first period, it was a wild second 20 minutes. The Flyers scored a pair of power-play goals to forge ahead. Scott Hartnell buried a cross-ice one-timer from Mike Richards at 3:06. The Caps’ penalty killers had just escaped from a nearly 90-second shift, but the Flyers scored on the ensuing rush.
Shortly after the Flyers killed off a five-on-three for 1:41, they scored nine seconds into a power play of their own. Braydon Coburn’s blast from the right point squeezed past Theodore at 14:29 thanks to a perfect screen by rookie James van Riemsdyk.
Down more than one goal for only the second time this season (but the second time in as many contests), Backstrom brought his club back in the waning moments of the period. The Swede leveled the score a little more than two minutes after his sublime assist. With the Caps on the power play, Backstrom one-timed a pass from Semin through Emery’s legs at 18:12 for his third marker of the year.
The Caps had gone 0-for-11 in the previous two games on the power play.
“I think in the first 10 minutes of the second they were pretty much all over us. They took it to us,” Theodore said. “They took a 2-0 lead, and I think that was a wake-up call for us. We got back in the game, and the power-play goal at the end of the second was huge.
“In the third, I think it was a fun game to watch and a fun game to play in.”
Note - Boyd Gordon missed his fifth straight game with a back injury. Forwards Eric Fehr (upper body) and Quintin Laing were also out. Defenseman Tyler Sloan shifted to forward to fill in on the fourth line.